Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Summer of Children’s Classics - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

‘The Wonderful Wizard’ of Oz by L. Frank Baum is an indisputable Children’s Classic. First published in May 1900, then adapted into a Broadway musical two years later and hitting the silver screen in the now iconic The Wizard of Oz in 1939. It has stood the test of time, being reprinted numerous times, and is now ingrained in western culture.

Lines from both the book and the original film are used in daily life…

Follow the yellow brick Road” becoming a metaphor for travelling to somewhere which you don’t know what to expect when you reach the destination.

“We’re not in Kansas any more.” Being an expression used when you are in a settling or place which is unfamiliar.

“Fly my pretty's!” Being an expression used when releasing something; dog off their leads, children into the playground – or is that just me?

Then there are the visual stimulations; who can look at a pair of silver or red sparkly shoes without instantly thinking about Dorothy tapping her heals? Has a witch ever been more imitated then the Wicked Witch of the west?

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is classic, through and through. It’s had two more, big screen adaptations, the 1985 terrifying ‘Return to Oz,’ where Dorothy is saved from a psychiatric institution and taken back to Oz to save it from a Nome King. Then the more recent 2013 ‘Oz the Great and Powerful,’ a prequel following the ‘Wizard’, Oz’s, journey to the colourful land and his battles when he arrives. Another amazing famous prequel is the musical ‘Wicked ‘based on the Gregory Maguire novel ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West,’ which has been running on Broadway and the Westend since 2003. Not to mention the Muppets version or the slightly strange Jackson Five one! 

I first read/listened to The Wonderful Wizard of OZ, as it was serialised in the Storyteller Magazine when I was a child. Monthly I would get a new edition of the magazine through the post with a cassette tape, and I’d look at the beautiful pictures and follow the printed words whilst I listened to someone read the story. I can remember been absolutely transfixed, and mesmerised by the magical world. The magical world of talking animals and strange people seemed so fresh and unique when I listed and read the magazine, (I’d never seen the film, and actually I didn’t see it until I was in my twenties). I have often wondered if the book would get the same kind of reaction with my own children today, what with it being so ingrained in culture. Would they still get the same feeling reading the pages as I did, when they had seen the film and already know about Dorothy’s magic slippers, and had won competitions for Wizard of Oz inspired scarecrows? I actually didn’t even have to prompt them to get the answer as they both choose to read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on their Kindles.

And so here is my youngests review on his own cover design…

The answer was yes, both children were totally enthralled by Dorothy adventures in spite of all the cultural references and bits of the stories that they had heard and watched they loved it.

So the main reason that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a children’s classic, is because it still entertains children today. Despite the passage of time, and the changes to the world since its publication 115 years ago, it still has the capability to capture children’s’ imaginations for them to read it to the end.

In fact Baum sums up what makes a classic a classic in the introduction to the book he writes…

Folklore, legends, myths and fairy tales have followed childhood through the ages, for every healthy youngster has a wholesome and instinctive love for stories fantastic, marvellous and manifestly unreal. “

It is these qualities that he strived to put into The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which has ensured that it is still loved and cherished by children today. Sadly less can be said about Baum Oz sequels, The Marvelous Land of Oz, and The Emerald City of Oz, which very few people have heard of, let alone read.

But despite the other tales of Oz being less known, they have been used to inspire many writers in their own adventures set in wonderland, or as raw material for films and other adaptions. Later in the week we’ll be looking at one such book, the recently published YA fantasy, ‘Dorothy Must Die’.


  1. Love the original cover design by your son! It's amazing how much part of our culture The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has become.

    1. Thanks Benjamin, he really enjoyed creating it! It really is, not many books can be identified by so many very short quotes!


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