"The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by L. Frank Baum is the latest book I have read as part of an online Fantasy Classics Challenge I have taken part in. Like many of the other books I have read in this challenge, it is another story that I am aware of through movies and other media.
The first half of the story is actually quite close to what you could expect if you have seen the famous 1939 classic including a rather grey Kansas. Dorothy and her dog Toto get whisked away by a Tornado and land in Oz, accidentally killing the wicked witch of the East in the process. She immediately desires to find a way home and so begins an adventure along the Yellow Brick road to request the help of the great wizard that lives in the Emerald City.
However, the 2nd half of the book is a rather unknown and surreal affair that involves a journey across an entire land made out of porcelain china. Everything there is made of china including the people, animals and buildings and I can understand why the makers of the movie really didn't fancy trying to create this element of the story on the big screen.
This novel really is quite a surreal and quirky adventure and I did enjoy the journey it took me on. It can be quite hard to read a book like this when you have already seen the movie so many times but I found the differences between the two formats to be part of what kept me entertained. One of the little differences that really made me smile was when I found out that the Emerald City is not actually green, but the people in the city are made to wear green tinted glasses so it appears that way.
In all honesty though, I still think the movie is a slightly better form of the story. There is just a little bit more fun ingrained in that portrayal and the Wicked Witch of the West was used to a much more powerful extent. I also think the violence is toned down quite a lot in the movie which makes it a little bit more suited for children. I couldn't actually believe how many animal beheadings littered the novel.
The one specific little issue I had with the book itself though was the way in which the story was structured. The story was presented to the reader in sharp bite size chunks that felt like mini adventures within a very limited overall arc. It all just felt very piecemeal to me and spoilt the flow a little. However, I can see the advantage this provides when reading the book to a child who would happily enjoy the quick conclusions to the adventure contained in each chapter.
Overall, this was a fun little read that explored a more surreal side to the Wizard of Oz legend. I enjoyed exploring the little strands of difference between the book and the movie and it was quite an eye opener reading a children's fantasy book that didn't try and portray a moral conclusion to every action. I am probably going to try and continue my journey through Baum's Oz books just to see where the adventures in his rather quirky world could lead next.