And almost a month later I am still going over Baum’s Oz books, though I am nearing the end of the line (I am currently reading The Magic of Oz, meaning that I have only Glinda of Oz left to go). One of the things I’ve noticed in these last few books however, is that while there is no getting around the fact that the books remain children’s books, the tone seems to have grown a little more serious, and the plots a little more complex. This was particularly apparent in The Tin Woodman of Oz… and that is particularly interesting because it is the first one in which in the preface the author acknowledges the existence of adult readers. In a way I guess it was only natural, after all the guy had been releasing Oz books for eighteen years by then, and that meant that a whole generation of adults that had grown up reading these stories, plus some grandparents who may have come across these books while reading them to a child only to find something in them that resonated within them.
Anyway, even though reading this book can leave you feeling a little lost at first if you haven’t read all of the previous entries in the series, a quick trip to Wikipedia will probably enable you to work around that one, and if you like children’s classics this book is a nice way to spend one afternoon.
After thinking it over for a while I decided to tackle the Oz books. Like a lot of people I grew up being familiar with The Wizard of Oz, only when I read it a few days ago I realized that the version I had read as a child was an adaptation (apparently someone had decided that the book had to be dumbed down even further, and as a child I was unaware of that fact). In addition to that my memories of the book had somehow managed to get tangled with those of the movie, and the end result was that all of a sudden I found myself being confronted with a book that was not like I had been expecting it to be. No, it’s not great, but it is still an interesting read, and I realize that complaining that a children’s book comes across as being a little childish for my liking is more than a little silly.
Anyway, once I was done with The Wizard of Oz I moved on to the rest of the series. So far I have only read a few titles (most of them can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg), and while at times I find myself itching for something that is at least a little more challenging, coming in the aftermath of my rereading the whole Discworld series, these books make for an interesting precedent. Sure, there are a number of significant differences, and I can already hear the howls from the Discworld fans at the mere thought of this comparison, but in a way it is not that much of a stretch to see the Oz books as the grandparents of both the Discworld and even the Middle-earth (and yes, like all grandparents, this one too can come across as a little embarrassing at times). The imagination is there, and I can see a lot of potential, but in a way that is what makes these books so frustrating: yes, the pieces are there, now if only the author would do something with them.
Well, like I said, grandparents can and do come across as rather old-fashioned at times, so I guess that is to be expected… and the bottom line is that, as embarrassing as the can be, there is no denying that knowing our grandparents can help us understand who we are and where we come from. No, I’m not sure these books would be appealing to children who are old enough to read them nowadays, and for adults they are mostly a curiosity, but if you are into the history of fantasy and children’s lit, these books are definitely worth it (and from what I have seen so far I suspect that The Wizard of Oz is not the best one of the lot).