The Wizard of Oz
This fantasy book by L. Frank Baum is the first in the "Oz” series and was originally published by the George M. Hill Company. Many different publishing houses currently publish this book.
The Wizard of Oz is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Dorothy and her dog, Toto, find themselves in the beautiful but dangerous land of Oz after being swept away from Kansas in a cyclone. After her house lands in Oz, Dorothy meets the Munchkins. They are in awe of her, supposing her to be a powerful sorceress because her house landed on and killed the Wicked Witch of the East. Dorothy knows better, and she wants to go home. The Good Witch of the North can't tell her how to do that, but she does give Dorothy a kiss of magical protection and a pair of silver shoes and sound advice. Then she sends Dorothy to ask the Wizard of Oz, who lives in the Emerald City, for directions home.
Kingdoms sit at the compass point in Oz, each with a predominant color preference and an existing ruler. Some rulers, such as the Witches in the North and South, are good. Others, such as the Witches in the East and West, are wicked. One ruler in the middle of Oz is said to be a wizard.
Dorothy meets new friends on her journey, each with a need of his own. A Scarecrow longs for brains, the Tin Woodman wishes he still had a heart and the cowardly Lion wants to be brave. Convinced by Dorothy that the Wizard can help them, they travel together, facing challenges and adventures.
They arrive at the Emerald City full of enthusiasm, but the Wizard sends them on an impossible quest to prove their worth. They must kill the Wicked Witch of the West, or he won't help any of them. With little hope, they head out. The Wicked Witch of the West does her best to destroy them, and although they defeat many of her minions, they can't defeat the Witch.
The protection Dorothy received from the Good Witch of the North does limit the harm that the Wicked Witch can do, though. Eventually Dorothy is able to destroy the Witch — through a complete accident. She rescues and reassembles her friends, and they return rejoicing to the Emerald City for their reward.
The Wizard acts strangely toward them. He ignores them for days, then denies knowing what promise he ever made to them. Too late, they discover that the Wizard isn't a wizard at all, just a long-lost traveler, rather like Dorothy herself, except that he used his status to create the illusion that he was a powerful wizard. The Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Lion are convinced that even though he is a fake, they won't be complete until he gives them brains, a heart and courage. The Wizard tries convincing them that they already have what they've been searching for: true wisdom, love and courage. The three insist they don't. When they persist, he pulls together a token of each character quality to present to them. It makes no practical difference, but the three feel better. Dorothy's request, however, is not so easy to either fake or solve. The Wizard suggests an escape from Oz via a hot air balloon. But when the balloon lifts into the air, Dorothy is outside of the basket.
So the four friends travel to another ruler, who may be able to help Dorothy: Glinda the Good Witch of the South. Along the way, they find more adventures and difficulties, but in the end, all three of the Oz friends have a kingdom to return to and rule over themselves. Glinda confirms that what the Wizard said was true for Dorothy, too. The silver shoes Dorothy has been wearing in Oz are not only sturdy, they're magical, and they will take her home. Since Glinda knows how the magic works, Dorothy and Toto say their bittersweet goodbyes. Then Dorothy returns home, leaving her friends in Oz to apply their gifts by ruling and living well.
The Lion accidentally knocks over a church when he leaves Dainty China Country.
Other Belief Systems
Magic and spells are common in Oz, and local rulers are often a witch, sorceress or wizard. Magic can be used for either good or evil. The Flying Monkeys tell Dorothy that the power of good is stronger than the power of evil, which is why they can't harm her even though commanded to by the Wicked Witch of the West. But the same Good Witch that kissed Dorothy to grant her magical protection says her own good magic was not strong enough to defeat the Wicked Witch of the West.
Dorothy's house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, crushing and killing her. Two Kalidahs (fantasy creatures, part bear and lion) fall to their deaths in a gorge. The Tin Woodman cuts the head off a wildcat for chasing a mouse and the wildcat's body rolls in pieces to the Woodman's feet. The Tin Woodman also chops the heads off 40 wolves. The Scarecrow wrings the necks of 40 crows. The Wicked Witch hits Toto with an umbrella, and he in turn bites her on the leg. The Wicked Witch melts when Dorothy throws a bucketful of water over her. When animated trees throw the Scarecrow back from the forest's edge, the Tin Woodman chops through one of the branch "arms,” and the whole tree shakes as if in pain. The Lion knocks the head off a giant spider, and it wiggles until dead.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Dorothy and her friends travel through the dark woods. After that, they come to an open field full of sunshine and flowers.
- Which was more dangerous for them?
What things in our world look attractive but are dangerous?
Why are there witches in Oz, according to the Good Witch of the North?
- Does being civilized have anything to do with whether there are witches?
- What does the Bible say about those who use witchcraft?
Why might God take sorcery so seriously?
When the friends reach the Emerald City, the Guardian of the Gates tells them they must wear special goggles.
- Why does he say that they need them?
- What is the reality that we find out later?
- Why do you think the Wizard feels the need to fool his subjects?
Can you think of anything in our world that has a lot of hype, but falls apart or becomes a disappointment once you dig a little deeper?
When Dorothy visits the Wizard for the first time, he asks her why he should help her. She says because he is strong and able to help, and because she is weak and helpless. The Wizard tells her that she has no right to expect any help from him unless she does something for him first.
- How would you describe God's character compared to the Wizard's?
What is the real reason the Wizard talks to Dorothy as he does?
The Wicked Witch of the West recognizes the magical protection from the Good Witch's kiss and the power of the silver shoes. But she also sees that Dorothy is young and unaware of the gifts she has been given.
- How is Dorothy enslaved?
- What lies did she believe?
- Could Dorothy have faced the Wicked Witch without any special protection or gifts?
What might have happened if she'd tried?
The China Girl Princess is desperately afraid of being chased through Dainty China Country because if she falls, she'll break.
- Can the China Doll be repaired if she falls?
- Why won't she be as pretty if she is mended?
Movie tie-in: Producers often use a book as a springboard for a movie idea or to earn a specific rating. Because of this, a movie may differ from the novel. To better understand how this book and the movie differ, compare the book review with Plugged In's movie review for Oz the Great and Powerful.
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Readability Age Range
12 and up
L. Frank Baum
Originally published by the George M. Hill Company. Many different publishing houses currently publish this book.