The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz, #1) - L. Frank Baum Much like the Andrew Lang fairy tale books, the Baum Oz series were books I wanted to read all of after seeing a set on a bookstore shelf. I'd read the first one from the library when little, but the ones that hooked me on the series were the two 1930s/40s hardcover books that my mother had kept from her childhood. It was probably the illustrations rather than the stories that hooked me, because Baum's conversations are always a little stiff. His plots are pure fairy tale - as was his intent - but what brought me back to read was the settings and his descriptions.First I should mention that I spent all of my elementary school years living in Kansas. When you live there, you feel very differently about the Wizard of Oz, because frankly very few books are ever set in Kansas. It's that kind of place.Anyway, it was time for a reread of this.Guternberg version here (sadly, no images), other Baum works here (note which ones have illustrations!).Quotes and random thoughts:So weirdly Kansas loves to promote the Wizard of Oz, which you'll learn if you ever drive through the state and try to find a postcard, keychain, or magnet to commemorate your trip. Besides sunflowers the Oz stuff is everywhere. Which will seem extra strange after I show you some examples of how Kansas is described in the book. First, it's grey - just like the movie where everything is black and white. But it's a depressing grey that seems to suck the life out of things. Ch. 1 (The Cyclone), 2nd and 3rd paragraph:"When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, she could see nothing but the great gray prairie on every side. Not a tree nor a house broke the broad sweep of flat country that reached to the edge of the sky in all directions. The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. Even the grass was not green, for the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color to be seen everywhere. Once the house had been painted, but the sun blistered the paint and the rains washed it away, and now the house was as dull and gray as everything else. When Aunt Em came there to live she was a young, pretty wife. The sun and wind had changed her, too. They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray; they had taken the red from her cheeks and lips, and they were gray also. She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled now. When Dorothy, who was an orphan, first came to her, Aunt Em had been so startled by the child's laughter that she would scream and press her hand upon her heart whenever Dorothy's merry voice reached her ears; and she still looked at the little girl with wonder that she could find anything to laugh at."Ch 2 (The Council with the Munchkins) - in her first view of Oz:"A little way off was a small brook, rushing and sparkling along between green banks, and murmuring in a voice very grateful to a little girl who had lived so long on the dry, gray prairies."There's a saying - on a Kansas magnet or bookmark I read somewhere - "if you can be happy in Kansas, you can be happy in a garden of raked sand" - or perhaps it went "if you can see beauty in Kansas" - anyway you get the idea. When I was in high school in Kansas I really enjoyed that line. But I hadn't remembered the bleakness of the grey at the beginning of this children's book - or the way the life had been sucked out of Aunt Em. That alone could be the start of a horror story.Having lived in Kansas I can assure you that it's not all grey there. However, it is often a dead brownish yellow color, especially in summer when the heat kills everything off. You're only going to find lovely green areas and trees near natural water sources (rivers for example) and places where people have gone out of their way to nurture plants. But it does feel a great deal like a great dessert of grassland, especially the father west you go. And it does get so hot and dry there that the ground cracks.Here's a quote the Kansas tourism industry won't be using in any way. Dorothy tells the Scarecrow about Kansas (Ch 4, The Road Through the Forest):"...The Scarecrow listened carefully, and said, "I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call Kansas.""That is because you have no brains" answered the girl. "No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home."The Scarecrow sighed."Of course I cannot understand it," he said. "If your heads were stuffed with straw, like mine, you would probably all live in the beautiful places, and then Kansas would have no people at all. It is fortunate for Kansas that you have brains." "That's not going on any Kansas billboards any time soon.Here's an example of the descriptions that Baum does nicely, adding details of things that would interest a child (especially if you like candy and popcorn, for instance) (Ch 11, The Emerald City of Oz, first paragraphs): "Even with eyes protected by the green spectacles, Dorothy and her friends were at first dazzled by the brilliancy of the wonderful City. The streets were lined with beautiful houses all built of green marble and studded everywhere with sparkling emeralds. They walked over a pavement of the same green marble, and where the blocks were joined together were rows of emeralds, set closely, and glittering in the brightness of the sun. The window panes were of green glass; even the sky above the City had a green tint, and the rays of the sun were green.There were many people--men, women, and children--walking about, and these were all dressed in green clothes and had greenish skins. They looked at Dorothy and her strangely assorted company with wondering eyes, and the children all ran away and hid behind their mothers when they saw the Lion; but no one spoke to them. Many shops stood in the street, and Dorothy saw that everything in them was green. Green candy and green pop corn were offered for sale, as well as green shoes, green hats, and green clothes of all sorts. At one place a man was selling green lemonade, and when the children bought it Dorothy could see that they paid for it with green pennies."Dorothy is led to her room inside Oz's palace (still Ch.11):"So Dorothy said good-bye to all her friends except Toto, and taking the dog in her arms followed the green girl through seven passages and up three flights of stairs until they came to a room at the front of the Palace. It was the sweetest little room in the world, with a soft comfortable bed that had sheets of green silk and a green velvet counterpane. There was a tiny fountain in the middle of the room, that shot a spray of green perfume into the air, to fall back into a beautifully carved green marble basin. Beautiful green flowers stood in the windows, and there was a shelf with a row of little green books. When Dorothy had time to open these books she found them full of queer green pictures that made her laugh, they were so funny."Not just books, but in case books intimidate the child-reader - they have pictures. There's definitely a point in a young reader's life when the lack of pictures isn't a big deal - but I admit I'll still flip to the center section of any book I first pick up to see the photos or prints or maps.An example of a fabulous beast (Ch 11) It's Oz's faux-beast-form, as the Tin Woodman sees him:"The Beast had a head like that of a rhinoceros, only there were five eyes in its face. There were five long arms growing out of its body, and it also had five long, slim legs. Thick, woolly hair covered every part of it, and a more dreadful-looking monster could not be imagined."This was one of the weirdest parts of the Wizard's story to me - the truth about the green color of Emerald City. Ch 15 (The Discovery of Oz, the Terrible):"Just to amuse myself, and keep the good people busy, I ordered them to build this City, and my Palace; and they did it all willingly and well. Then I thought, as the country was so green and beautiful, I would call it the Emerald City; and to make the name fit better I put green spectacles on all the people, so that everything they saw was green.""But isn't everything here green?" asked Dorothy."No more than in any other city," replied Oz; "but when you wear green spectacles, why of course everything you see looks green to you. The Emerald City was built a great many years ago, for I was a young man when the balloon brought me here, and I am a very old man now. But my people have worn green glasses on their eyes so long that most of them think it really is an Emerald City, and it certainly is a beautiful place, abounding in jewels and precious metals, and every good thing that is needed to make one happy.That's a really large scale hoax. Not to mention, there's no real need for everyone to see everything green - and no real explanation about why it's so important everyone believe the city's all green. As a child, who was wearing really thick glasses as I read the book, I found this particular lie annoying. So to return Dorothy home to Kansas (Ch. 17), the Wizard proposes that they build a balloon and cross the desserts the same way he came to Oz. Somehow this means Dorothy is required to do all the sewing to build the thing."So Dorothy took a needle and thread, and as fast as Oz cut the strips of silk into proper shape the girl sewed them neatly together. First there was a strip of light green silk, then a strip of dark green and then a strip of emerald green; for Oz had a fancy to make the balloon in different shades of the color about them. It took three days to sew all the strips together, but when it was finished they had a big bag of green silk more than twenty feet long." First she's a child, second they couldn't come up with some reason/excuse to have one of the teeming masses in the palace to do the sewing?! I didn't notice this at all reading this as a child, but for some reason this made me stop on this read-through. Possibly because I was really bad at sewing as a kid. (It might also have something to do with the dated "all girls can sew" thing going on here too.) Oh well, at least the Wizard does all the "sealing with glue" by himself.Now this part DID stick with me from childhood because, while I wasn't at all interested in Dorothy as a personality (she was always good and sweet and thus totally unreal) - this part of the story annoyed the hell out of childhood-me. Oz has the balloon ready to go, Dorothy is off hunting Toto because he ran away to chase a kitten, and the balloon flies off without her. Toto is constantly Dorothy's responsibility and she's spent the entire story keeping him safe, sharing her food, etc. - we're beaten over the head with how much she loves this dog more than her own life/safety. And the one time she has a chance to get home - when she knows how hard it is to return home and has faced so much danger to get to this point - she doesn't hang onto her damn dog. It's not like she didn't carry him before when there was trouble nearby. I had zero sympathy for her at this point.AND! To make it worse, (Ch 19) when the others talk about what a nice person and not a bad Wizard Oz turned out to be:"Dorothy said nothing. Oz had not kept the promise he made her, but he had done his best, so she forgave him. As he said, he was a good man, even if he was a bad Wizard."There was nothing to forgive! YOU missed the balloon yourself - that was your fault! If you'd hung onto the dog during the balloon boarding part you wouldn't have missed the balloon!!!!!Ahem. So anyway that part still bothered me.I did remember the last 20% - you know, the bit the movie cut out to give Dorothy the quick trip home. The people and creatures are completely weird - which make for the more amusing moments in Baum. However - wow, I did not remember how quickly the ending popped up, and no epilogue, no nothing. Just suddenly - end. Eventually I need to poke around and find out if he was already planning a sequel.Meanwhile this stays at 3 stars for the Dorothy-annoyances. (It'd probably slip to 2 stars if I pondered it longer.)LATER: Answer to the question about sequel:Wikipedia: "Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz without any thought of a sequel. After reading the novel, thousands of children wrote letters to him, requesting that he craft another story about Oz. In 1904, he wrote and published the first sequel, The Marvelous Land of Oz, explaining that he grudgingly wrote the sequel to address the popular demand."