Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Read Aloud Handbook Project: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

"The book is always better."

Do you believe that? I know some people do. I don't necessarily agree. Granted, there are instances in which I thought the movie did the book injustice (Ella Enchanted, A Wrinkle in Time), and some instances in which I thought the movie was excellent (Because of Winn Dixie), even when significant parts of the story were changed (the 1995 A Little Princess movie; the location and ending were completely different, but it's a beautiful movie and a hidden gem).

And there are a few movies that are such phenomenal classics that it's impossible for me to compare the two. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is one (because, because, because, because...because of the wonderful things he does...).

I hate to admit it, but this was the first time I've read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. My sister had the entire boxed set and read them all; I tried throughout the years, but never had enough interest to read it until now.

Although I knew there were significant differences in the book (Dorothy is a little girl instead of a preteen; the book isn't presented as a dream), the major difference at which I was surprised was the relatively minor character of Glinda. Glinda, of course, is a major character in the movie; when the travelers are overcome by the poppies, she creates a snowfall to counteract the effect. Not only does Glinda only briefly appear at the start of Dorothy's arrival into Munchkin Land and at the end of Dorothy's quest, but she is only described as good, and not beautiful (no "only bad witches are ugly" distinction, and there are actually two good Witches of the North and of the South). Without the interference of Glinda, the companions are thoroughly on their own and must depend entirely on their own wits.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been described as America's first fairy tale; the tale originates in the heartland of the country and the gumption of the characters, rather than the beauty and royalty of princes and princesses, brings the characters through their successful journey. It's a rollicking read and would definitely be a great read aloud, even if the children are already familiar with the movie (could open up a great compare/contrast discussion).

One caveat; we have The 100th anniversary edition from Books of Wonder. While it is a beautiful presentation, some of the artwork superimposed over the text makes it difficult to read the text (particularly in an Emerald City scene).

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