Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Reading: The Wizard of Oz

An early cover of The Wizard of Oz
courtesy of www.openculture.com
The Wizard of Oz is one of the most popular movies and theatrical plays of all time.  However, some people do not realize that it was actually a book before it became a movie!  (The best films tend to be!)  When I was in elementary school, I remember reading a book called Return to Oz, but I never actually read THE original version of Frank L. Baum's The Wizard of Oz. Until now, of course!  The great thing about having a blog devoted to books is that it causes me to read books that I've always wanted to read but never have and has helped me to discover new titles, too!  Of course, The Wizard of Oz is far from a new title after being published 114 years ago by Puffin Books, but there are many unfamiliar events in the book that do not appear in the film version; I have gleaned a greater understanding of the story from reading the novel.

As a novel, I enjoyed The Wizard of Oz, but of course I visualized everything in my head to go along with what I saw in the movie: the landscape, the characters, the twister!  Still, there were a lot of details in the novel that brought the setting even more to life.  Perhaps these elements are included in the movie and I just never noticed them.  For example, all of the characters in the Emerald City wear green glasses so that everything appears to be green.  It's the first time I actually considered why the Emerald City is green, and when we learn more about Oz, we understand how the name for this city came to be.

Speaking of Oz, the novel provides more insight into the Great and Powerful and how a, er, phony, could take on the role of a magical wizard.  There are also many characters in the novel that are not in the movie.  I preferred the characters that I was familiar with in the film over the characters I didn't know about; perhaps that was because I had a greater vision of these characters, but it did seem like the unknown characters were more imaginative and unbelievable than the others.  For example, in one scene, Dorothy and friends are chased by the Kalidahs, animals that have bear bodies and tiger heads.  When Dorothy falls under the spell of poppy flowers, she and her companions are rescued by a group of field mice.  And the flying monkeys actually are not evil at all and help to lead Dorothy back to Oz!  

After reading the novel, I am reminded of how much more stimulating reading is than watching a movie.  While reading the book, I noticed things that were not apparent in the film, as I stated above, and the theme of love, family, friendship, and courage was more noticeable and meaningful, as well.  These themes are also timeless and relevant, even a century after its first publication.  Most of my students have seen The Wizard of Oz, but I would like for them to hear the novel and think about which story provides more details and information about the characters, setting, and story.  I think that comparing and contrasting any movie with its book would yield the same discussion.  With many high-profile current books being turned into movies, I'll stick to reading the book first if I decide that I also want to see the movie.  If you'd like to read the book of this classic story you're probably familiar with, check it out at your local library! 

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