Thursday, February 16, 2017

ThrowBook Thursday: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

As I mentioned last Tuesday, while I was growing up, The Wizard of Oz was a staple film in our household. I could sing all of the songs and recite most of the dialogue without much thought. (I can do this for a few other films, but my storage capacity seems to be reaching its limit.) Like a great many good movies (and and even greater number of mediocre and terrible ones), it was based on a book. When I discovered the book in our school library, I checked it out to see how it compared to the movie.

Big surprise: in many respects, it didn't. The movie shortened the plot in a number of places (the journey to the Witch's castle, Dorothy's journey home, and even the trip to the Emerald City) and dropped characters, adding in a frame story with farmhands and a gloomy old witch. I don't say this to disparage the film. It's a classic and it tells the story well. But the book is a different animal in many respects. It fleshes out Baum's Americana fairyland with more strange creatures and wild happenings. the audience with the Wizard is really four audiences -- one for each of the main characters -- and the giant head is only one of the illusions he uses to cow and awe his supplicants.

Despite the differences between the book and the film (or perhaps because of them), I came back to the book again the next school year. This was mostly an accident -- I clicked the Accelerated Reader quiz for the book, thinking I hadn't taken it the year before for some reason. I actually had, but the system reset itself for the new school year and I took the quiz again. Disagreeing with one of the questions I'd missed, I decided to read the book again to prove myself right. (I wasn't.) This book -- or James and the Giant Peach, the timeline's a bit fuzzy in my brain -- became the first book I read more than once. What's more, I read it at least one more time before moving on to middle school. This time, I purposefully took the quiz before checking the book out once more, just to prove I had a good memory. (I did, at least, remember the correct answer to the missed question from the year before.)

I went on to read several of Baum's sequels, and two of Ruth Plumy Thompson's, in the following years. Although Wizard isn't my favorite of the books, it was my literary introduction to Oz and all its wonders. (My favorite is The Scarecrow of Oz, by the way.) I also began a modern, cyberpunk-ish retelling of Wizard a couple years back for NaNoWriMo that I'm hoping to (finally) finish once the first draft of Albion Apparent is complete. The Wizard of Oz has left its mark on me, and no mistake.

What has your experience been with The Wizard of Oz? What books did you read more than once when you were younger? Let me know in the comments!

5 comments:

  1. I read all (or most of) the Oz books when I was in middle school, too. But the only one that I clearly remember is Ozma of Oz, because I had my own personal copy so it was easier to reread. My first rereads were the Narnia books starting in 3rd/4th grade. My parents bought me the set & promised me an Aslan t-shirt if I read them all. So I did - and that was when reading clicked for me and then I read them again and again and again. I also read Little Pilgrim's Progress and The Trumpeter Swan repeatedly.

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    1. I came to Narnia a bit later than many of my friends. I wish I could go back and read them sooner!

      I still haven't read Trumpet of the Swan. Funnily enough, I actually read Stuart Little twice in the same school year without realizing it.

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    2. I like all the E.B. White books I have read but there's something about Trumpet of the Swan - even now in my 30s it is still one of my favorite books.

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  2. My response was similar to yours. Utter confusion at how different this was than the film. I read later on that at least one of the differences (the dream sequence notion) was because the filmmakers or higher-ups or someone feared the audience wouldn't go for a straight-up fantasy premise so they altered it to "knock on the head dream".

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    1. I have heard something similar. It seems to have set a precedent for similar "it was only a dream" resolutions in other fantasy films later on.

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What do you think?