Almost everyone is familiar with The Wizard of Oz; but, many people do not know that author Frank Baum wrote a total of 14 full length Oz books. As a reviewer of Children's books, I believe the Oz Series is good literature for young children ages 5 through 9. Below, I provide brief reviews for several that I have read. I hope my comments will encourage parents to read not only The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (book 1) but also other books from this series. Most of the Oz books are readily available from on line bookstores.
The Oz theme will be familiar to most readers through the popularity of the 1930's movie version. But for those unfamiliar, the books are best described as "whimsical" and "creative". Most of the Oz books progress through a series of scenes that we might describe as a plot; and even when they do not, the mental images they involk are colorful and entertaining. The series sometimes deals with evil characters; and yet, they are so outlandish that even young children should understand them as imagionary. My memories of hearing these books as a small child is my basis for saying they are good. Note: Religiously conservative parents need to be aware that this series involves witches and magic.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The first book written tells a story that is familiar to most. A little girl from Kansas is blown away by a tornado to the magical land of oz and the tale is of her adventures before returning to her home in Kansas. The story is colorful, interesting and contains memorable characters including the Cowardly Lion (shown at left), The Scarecrow and The Tin Woodsman. The book is quite different from the popular 1930's film version and is well worth reading. Generally, the plot is understandable and linear. Characters are divided between good and evil. The story progresses through a logical sequence of scenes and finally ends as Dorothy is reunited with her family.
The Marvelous Land of Oz
I found the 2nd book less interesting that the first; however, it provides followers of the Oz saga with critical information. It would seem that the "Lovable Wizard" had his dark moments. At some distant time, he deposed Ozma, the rightful ruler of Oz, and sold her to a witch. The witch then magically transformed her into boy and forced the boy to be her servant. Most of the book tracks the adventures of this young boy and the reader is left wondering why we care; but by the end of the story, the Tin Woodsman, the Scarecrow and a kind Sourceress named Glenda force the old Witch Mombi to return the boy to his original form - and that is Ozma, the rightful ruller of Oz. While we never meet Dorothy in this story, the saga is poised, waiting for Dorothy's return when the two girls become close friends (see Ozma of Oz below)
Threads of continuity that bind this story to the first Oz story include the loveable Scarecrow and his friend The Tin Woodsman. The book also features the same "whimiscal" landscape and adventures that have made the magical "Land of Oz" famous.
Ozma of Oz is actually the 3rd book of Oz. Early on, Dorothy is washed overboard during a vacation to Australia and washes up somewhere close to Oz. She is first terrorized by the harmless Wheelers (shown left) and then sets out on many adventures. Over the course of the story, Dorothy also meets other memorable characters such as Tic-Tok, the clockwork robot, a talking chicken and the nome King. In the story, Dorothy and Ozma take turns rescueing one another before becoming close friends in this and all following Oz books. I recommend this book highly for young children and their adult parents.
The Emerald City of Oz
Number 6 of Baum's Oz books brings Dorothy's Aunt Em and Uncle Henry to Oz permanently, following the collapse of their farm back in Kansas. After Dorothy and Ozma settle the couple into Oz, the Nome king from book 3 reappears and plans a conquest of the Emerald City, followed by the enslavement of its inhabitants. With an army of 50 thousand and support from the Grand Gillipoot, the Nome king is in a strong position. Suspense continues right up to the end, and but for the great brains of the Scarecrow the Emerald City would have fallen. The Scarecrow's peaceful solution to the violent and dangerous Nome king is both interesting and appropriate for a young children's book.Glida of Oz
Glida of Oz is the 14th book of Oz. In the book, Dorothy, Ozma and Good Witch Glinda work to stop a war in a remote corner of Oz. While some commentators see this as Baum's "darkest" book, I found it quite enjoyable. It is a logical story that maintains the whimsical fabric common to the Oz series. Some chapters are quite funny - generally surpassing humor presented in other books of the Oz series.
I highly recommend this series for girls and boys ages 5 through 9. You will find some of these books at your local bookstore; but, almost the entire series is available through major on-line bookstores. They can be bought electronically, in paperback or in lovely hardback editions with original illustrations. Beware of the "cheep" e-book versions that have not been properly edited as they often contain many errors.