Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: The Marvelous Land of Oz

Having only read the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a child (as well as the beginning of The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Book 7, for a reason I don't remember), I'm ecstatic to, even at the ripe old age of 28, to immerse myself into L. Frank Baum's world of Oz that he created more than 100 years ago, with reading all 14 of his novels, one a month, all the way until the end of 2013. I know a few details about the books, but pretty much everything beyond Tik-Tok of Oz, Book 8, is at a total mystery to me, and I'm curious to see how his tale wraps up in the fourteenth and final tale, Glinda of Oz, Book 14.

I did know sitting down to read The Marveous Land of Oz that Dorothy was nowhere to be found, and that irked readers demanded he bring back Dorothy for Book 3. How did Baum take all this in? He never set out to write a series. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was supposed to be it, but after two or three years of unthinkable demand for a sequel, he finally penned The Marvelous Land of Oz. How does it compare to Book 2? Could anything he have written compare to Book 2?

The Marvelous Land of Oz is great fun, a new adventure in Oz that is similar to the journey taken in Book 1, but with enough small changes to make it completely new. Instead of Dorothy this time we have Tip, a young boy who's under the guardianship of a mischievous witch. He eventually flees, with a live pumpkinhead and sawhorse in two, and find The Scarecrow ruling The Emerald City. The city is overtaken by an all-girl Army of Revolt who overtake the Scarecrow and take what they think is theirs. Tip and the others flee to the Winkie Kingdom to find The Tin Woodman ruling over a kingdom of his own, and as a group they conspire to return to the Emerald City and overthrow the new regime. And in the end they find Glinda, who has a big surprise for the group that changes all their lives forever.

Let's be honest, though: this isn't The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It doesn't have the same charm and discovery of the original, and while I don't think Dorothy needs to be the focal character of all of Baum's fourteen books, I would lie if I didn't say I missed her throughout these pages. Tip is fine, and his reveal in the end makes his character's inclusion worth the reader's time, but he just doesn't have the same spunky personality of Dorothy. Also, while I loved spending time with the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, I missed the Cowardly Lion (now, hopefully not so cowardly)! Where was he? I'm curious why Baum felt he didn't even need to mention the lion at all in these nearly three hundred pages.

What I enjoyed about this sequel is the delightful prose that take us from the beginning to the end. I can see myself reading these books to my kids someday. There's a joy to the characters and to the journey that really brings back the wonder of childhood. I loved Jack Pumpkinhead and all his quirks. I loved the addition of another witch antagonist, Mombi, who actually plays a much bigger part here than the Wicked Witch of the West played in the original book! And the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman are such humorous, nostalgic character that spending more time with them is nothing short of a pleasure.

I like Baum's writing a lot. It's easy to read but still super detailed, and all of his characters, both new and old, burst with life. The ending does a good job setting up the next installment, and I'm excited to see how this series will evolve, especially with Dorothy, and even the Wizard (!), back in the mix.

1 comment:

  1. I seem to say that every Oz book is my favorite, and I suppose that speaks to the strength of the series. What I really enjoyed about this book as a child is that I had actually read "Ozma of Oz" (second in the series) before this one. So I had no idea that this story would tell us how Ozma arrived on the scene. What a fantastic surprise! Once again, Baum shows us why he is the master of fantasy, with this sequel. In many ways, I enjoy this book much more than "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." The scene when the unforgettable character, Jack Pumpkinhead, enters the court of the Scarecrow will split your belly as if you were the straw man himself. It's a scene of intelligently-written laughs, and I always use this chapter of the book as a model with my creative writing students to demonstrate how to craft humor. Of course, as someone who enjoys puns (especially bad ones), I also relish every line of the Wogglebug in this book. With "The Marvelous Land of Oz", I think Baum established that he was a force to be reckoned with, and I highly recommend this book to all young readers.

    grace (Dallas Cold Laser)