Tagged: wizard of oz

Book Review: The Magic of Oz

11081386_1_lTitle: The Magic of Oz
Written by: L. Frank Baum
Series: Book 13 in the Oz series
Publisher: Reilly & Britton
Publish Date: 1919
Genre: Middle Grade Classic!
Pages: 266
Source: Borrowed from Library
Buy the Book: The Magic of Oz

Synopsis: There’s trouble once again in the land of Oz!

The mischievous boy Kiki Aru has discovered a magical word–Pyrzqxgl–can transform him and anyone else into whatever Kiki demands. Worse yet, Kiki has been recruited by the villainous Nome King in his latest attempt to get revenge on Princess Ozma and all her friends.

While Ozma’s court plans a spectacular celebration for her birthday, Dorothy and the Wizard set out with the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger to find a gift for their beloved princess. But in the Forest of Gugu they become entangled in the wicked plans and magical transformations of Kiki and the Nome King.

Can Dorothy and the Wizard stop the evil-doers before they conquer Oz? Or will Kiki’s incredible powers finally give the Nome King the revenge he has craved for so long? (Via Amazon)

Brian’s Review: A year ago this week I started reading, for the first time since childhood, L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, a gorgeous annotated edition that had nearly 100 pages of biography on Baum and all sorts of neat trivia about the book. At the time I was working on my newest revision of my young adult novel Over the Rainbow, a subversive modern day update of The Wizard of Oz, and I thought it would be fun to embark on a fourteen-month project and finally read all of Baum’s Oz books, not just the first one or two. When I was a kid my mom bought me the first 10, so I’ve had most of the books on my bookshelf for about twenty years. The farthest I ever got back in the third grade was Ozma of Oz, and I thought it was time to finally explore what else Baum’s world had to offer.

A lot has happened in the last year—I finally finished and self-published Over the Rainbow, started graduate school and teaching, and completed two additional novels—but in the midst of all of life’s craziness, it’s been so much fun for me to curl up in bed for a few hours each month and check out Baum’s latest offering. It’s kind of amazing to think I only have one left to read—Glinda of Oz—before this sometimes frustrating but mostly enjoyable journey comes to a close. I haven’t liked all of the books, with some so far removed from the core set characters we love and adore that at times they don’t even feel like Oz books. Unfortunately, The Magic of Oz is one of the lesser entries in the series.

Like Scarecrow of Oz and Riki-Tink in Oz, the characters we’ve come to know and love act as side characters to the new Kiki Aru, who finds great use with his newfound magical power. Baum bounces around to a few stories throughout the novel, essentially making this his “Magnolia,” but unfortunately the storyline here is nowhere near as compelling as the twelfth book in the series, Tin Woodman of Oz, which kept me throughout engaged from beginning to end. I find the best books in series, like Ozma of Oz and The Emerald City of Oz, to have high stakes, with the lesser having little to no stakes, like The Magic of Oz, which has a storyline that depends on whether or not Dorothy and the Wizard can find Ozma a frickin’ birthday present (!). The best scenes of the book occur at the end, like when all of the characters sit around Ozma’s birthday table and make conversation, and the last chapter when the Nome King finally gets his comeuppance in the Emerald City. Overall, this was an OK read, not the worst of the series, but not one of the best, either. I have a fixation on the books revolving around the characters from the previous books that I’m interested in, and when Baum throws in a new character for half the book that doesn’t offer much interest or personality, I tune out a little.

I’m hoping Glinda of Oz ends the fourteen book series on a high note. Check back in December to see what I think of Baum’s last book, and my thoughts on the series as a whole!

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Book Review: The Scarecrow of Oz

scarecrow_ozTitle: The Scarecrow of Oz
Written by: L. Frank Baum
Series: Book 9 in the Oz series
Publisher: Reilly & Britton
Publish Date: 1915
Genre: Middle Grade Classic!
Pages: 236
Source: Downloaded on Amazon
Buy the Book: The Scarecrow of Oz

Synopsis: Trot, a girl from California, and her friend Cap’n Bill, a retired seaman with a wooden left leg, are out boating when they are sucked down a whirlpool and carried up to a beach (probably by mermaids) inside a cavern. Soon an Ork turns up, which is a funny bird with a parrot head, chopping bowl wings, four legs, and a propellor tail. After much crawling through caves and some flying, the three come out on an island, manage to shrink and re-grow themselves, and land on the mountain of the Bumpy Man in the Land of Mo (where it rains lemonade and snows popcorn). They pull Button-Bright out of a popcorn snowbank (and the fifth book, The Road to Oz) and eventually arrive in Jinxland, part of the Quadling Country of Oz. Here, King Krewl summons a wicked witch with an eyepatch known as Blinkie, who transforms Cap’n Bill into a grasshopper with a wooden leg. Since his niece, Princess Gloria, has fallen in love with a gardener boy named Pon but the king wants her to marry an old courtier named Googly-Goo, Krewl has the witch freeze Gloria’s heart so she cannot love anyone. Glinda sends the Scarecrow to help Trot, Bill, Button-Bright, and the Ork to set everything aright. (Via Amazon)

Brian’s Review: L. Frank Baum once considered The Scarecrow of Oz his favorite of all the Oz novels, but I find that surprising since this is easily one of the weakest of the books. The first half of the book doesn’t really feel like an Oz novel at all, as we follow a few brand new characters as they make (yet another) perilous journey into the unknown. Considering how much these books were guided by his fans, it surprises me each and every time when the core group of beloved characters stay off the page, usually until the last ten percent of the book. Imagine if each Harry Potter sequel opened with a new set of three characters taking a journey to Hogwarts, and we didn’t catch up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione until Chapter Twenty. Not Chapter Two or Three, but Twenty. That’s what each Oz sequel is like.

I don’t need each book to be Dorothy and Ozma’s grand adventures together, but I’d just love things to be mixed up a bit. What if The Emerald City were actually destroyed? What if one of the beloved characters died, and revenge had to be taken? I know the Oz books are for kids, but I’d just like the stakes to go up. The last three books have basically been the same story, but with new characters, and with an ending where Ozma just snaps her fingers and saves everyone, no matter the great danger they all were in.

Of course there were some joys in The Scarecrow of Oz, and the most fun was to be had in the second half, when the Scarecrow (finally) takes center stage as the hero of the novel. By the 40% mark, I was getting nervous, because there was no sign of Dorothy and the Emerald City, or of the title character himself. But when he shows up, and goes to Trot, Captain Bill, and the Ork, to guide them toward the Emerald City, my interest in the book spiked. The Scarecrow is one of my favorite characters of the series, and in no previous book since the original did he really get much to do, so I was happy to see him play a major role here. With five books to go, I hope Baum will throw a curveball my way, and give me an awesome sequel that could stand up against the two best books of the series, The Wizard of Oz and Ozma of Oz. But as of Book 9, he’s still just going through the motions.

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