A month or three ago I started reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz aloud to my kindergartener…come to think of it, it was actually in August, because we’d forgotten the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book we were currently reading when we visited my parents, and so we had to find something else to read aloud while we were there. She loved it, and we’ve since moved on to The Marvelous Land of Oz (which, by the way, is a bit more interesting with regard to gender roles than I remembered). In the meantime, my 2nd grader started The Wonderful Wizard of Oz last night, and I am honestly thrilled to see both my girls enjoying books that I got such a kick out of as a kid.
In case you didn’t read them back in the day, there are actually 14 Oz books (or so I remember). The movie is based solely on the first one, but is quite a bit different; L. Frank Baum’s Dorothy is more like 5 or 6, for one thing, and then of course there’s the matter of Oz being real. Not the wizard, you understand–he’s still a humbug–but the land itself. There’s no question of it being only a dream. There is also a second good witch, and quite a few more strange events, and, well, you should see for yourself. (Unless, I suppose, you are a die-hard worshipper of the movie.) It’s a fun series, and Baum’s writing style is amusing for adults in a way that young readers will likely miss entirely. (I want to say that it’s similar to the Chronicles of Narnia, but it isn’t, not really; Baum is too American, and there is no sense of underlying Christian symbolism and theology. On the other hand, I think it likely that young fans of one will also enjoy the other.) If you’ve got an elementary schooler into fantasy and you’re looking for something safe, fun, and appealing, give the Oz books a try. I know at least one fourth grader who’s adored them for years.