The Wizard of Oz is a wonderful book to read aloud. It is witty, quick-paced, and wise. AND it is just the first in a series of 14 books by L. Frank Baum about the kingdom of Oz, each one a new adventure with more and more odd characters, each with their own strengths and quirks. If you are only familiar with the movie, perhaps you don’t know about this treasure trove of books to share with young children. I read them myself almost as soon as I learned to read, and I read them to my children, especially to my son, for several years.
I think my favorite is the 2nd one, The Land of Oz, about the adventures of young boy named Tip. Tip lives with and does chores for a wicked witch. She acquires some powder that she uses to bring alive a stick-limbed pumpkin-headed man that Tip had constructed to scare her. Then she tells Tip she no longer needs him and plans to turn him into a marble statue. He runs away, taking along Jack Pumpkinhead … and the powder.
His adventures include an encounter with the Army of Revolt, composed entirely of girls wielding knitting needles, who take over the Emerald City, deposing the Scarecrow. Tip uses the powder to create two additional creatures to help him out of tight corners, one a wooden scarecrow, the other a flying contraption with two sofas tied together as a body, palm frond wings, and a stuffed gump head.
The Wizard of Oz was published in 1900 and the last book in the series, Glinda of Oz, in 1920 after L. Frank Baum’s death. If you are lucky enough to find some of the originals in used book sales, they bring other qualities to savor — large format pages of thick paper with lots of black and white sketches in addition to color plates.
To support my nomination of these books to the positive canon, here’s how The Land of Oz ends. First the background. In the course of their adventures, the Scarecrow had lost all his straw, and the best replacements available were dollar bills they found in the bottom of a jackdaw nest.
“And I have made the Scarecrow my royal Treasurer,” explained the Tin Woodman. “For it has occurred to me that it is a good thing to have a royal Treasurer who is made of money. What do you think?”
“I think,” said the little Queen, smiling, “that your friend must be the richest man in all the world.”
“I am,” returned the Scarecrow, “but not on account of my money. For I consider brains far superior to money, in every way. You may have noticed that if one has money without brains, he cannot use it to advantage; but if one has brains without money, they will enable him to live comfortably to the end of his days.”
“At the same time,” declared the Tin Woodman, “you must acknowledge that a good heart is a thing that brains can not create, and that money can not buy. Perhaps, after all, it is I who am the richest man in all the world.”
“You are both rich, my friends,” said Ozma, gently; “and your riches are the only riches worth having — the riches of content!”