The Wizard of Oz is so closely associated with the Great Depression (thanks to the movie) that it’s hard to remember it was actually published almost 30 years before the great stock market crash of 1929. The book has since been adapted and retold numerous times. The sequel to it, published four years later, has also been adapted a number of times (or worked into the adaptations of The Wizard of Oz). Thus, both books could work for the two bingo slots I’m filling today. However, for the sake of argument The Wizard of Oz slots into The Book Was Better and The Land of Oz is for This Old Thing.
The plot of the books is fairly simple. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is taken to Oz in a tornado and must find her way home. Along the way she meets friends and charms the citizens of Oz with her sweetness. In the Land of Oz, a young boy named Tip runs away from his witch keeper and upends the political system of Oz. There isn’t much continuity in the series as a whole, Baum pretty famously didn’t expect to write more then one Oz book and he keeps writing himself into corners that the next book, demanded by fans, has to wriggle out of. Despite the lack of continuity, there are foundations laid in these two books that set the tone for the whole series. (This foundation is probably why these two books are the two books from which almost all adaptations pull plot points) These foundations are: firstly that sweet and good behavior will win the day every time; two that friendship is fundamental to everything; and lastly (but probably most importantly) that women rule. I’ve found that the further an adaptation steers from these foundations, the worse it is.
The various adaptions are a mixed bag. We do not speak of Maguire’s Wicked for example; in fact I hate it so much I refuse to see the musical which I hear is better. I enjoyed Emerald City (RIP show, you were too pretty for this world), and thought their take on the Tip, a story line pulled from The Land of Oz, was interesting. However, for all that I enjoy various adaptations, nothing feels quite like coming home then rereading these books.
I have reread this book and the sequels more times then I can remember. I have a very clear memory of staying home ‘sick’ to reread the fourth book in the series (Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz) when I was in first grade. These books are familiar old friends, and I love them. It’s hard for me to review them, and I’ve been sitting on this for a while now.
I think the books are classics for a reason. I absolutely recommend them to every young child I know.