Book Review: The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Book Review: The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum ~ book review of an engrossing audiobook performed perfectly by Anne Hathaway

I knew that the movie version of The Wizard of Oz took liberties with the story. The concept that each character from Kansas was transported symbolically into Oz was entirely Hollywood’s creation. And Dorothy’s ruby slippers were not really red.

But I never read or studied this book. After reading and disliking Wicked, taking an adventure in the Land of Oz was not something I longed for.

However, this book resonates with many people. I’ve had friends who own various Wizard of Oz dolls and decorations that they are quite attached to! I have fond childhood memories of watching the movie every year and being delighted at the transformation from black and white to color cinema. Even as a teacher, I can usually refer to characters from the The Wizard of Oz and the majority of my students know who the various players are.

What I didn’t realize until I started teaching social studies and poking more thoroughly around American history was that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, first published in 1900, was potentially a political allegory.

I had received the audiobook read by Anne Hathaway as a freebie a few years ago, and I decided to listen to this story for my Reading Challenge “book made into a movie” category.

Listening to this story with more historical background enhanced how I viewed Dorothy, the character representing everyday Americans. She was no longer just a girl who accidentally killed one wicked witch and then murdered the other in her attempt to find safe passage home. Instead, she was the picture of self-reliance. The idea that she had the power to go home at any time in her journey was a much more powerful message for me.

Plus with this historical criticism/interpretation of the story in mind, the silver shoes made much more sense on the yellow brick road. The 1890s Populist Party, a political party joining the farmers and the factory workers, wanted a silver and gold standard to help fight deflation of agrarian prices.

What surprised me about the plot was how much was left out of the movie. When Dorothy was sent to kill the Wicked Witch of the West, in the book the Wicked Witch sent wolves, crows, bees, and Winkies to destroy Dorothy and her entourage before conjuring the winged monkeys. 

A note about the audio performance: Anne Hathaway’s reading of this tale is superb; she crafts unique voices for each and every character! Her voice for the Wicked Witch was especially terrifying.

In the movie version, the melting of the Wicked Witch was always a sign that there were only a few more commercial breaks. Rather than beginning the wrap-up though, the audiobook was only about halfway through.

Dorothy still melted the Wicked Witch, but she promptly cleaned up. Then she freed the Winkies! While the journey back to the Emerald City was quick, Dorothy’s multistep journey back home took the entire second half of the book.

There were people made of china, Quadlings, and Hammer Heads. The winged monkeys made an encore presentation as well.

And in the end, Dorothy still learned the value of friendship, and the importance of home.

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