As a kid I never really liked the Wizard of Oz movie. I never had much patience childishness even from other kids, so Judy Garland’s acting drove me batty. (Admittedly it isn’t really her fault, per se, she was an adult woman being asked to portray a little girl- of course she’s going to act childish.)
I read the book one summer out of sheer boredom, and was delighted to find that the book was drastically different than the movie in all the ways I thought were important. For example, in the movie Dorothy is captured by the witch (with lots of tears and simpering), her friends try to save her, and then she accidentally kills witch in a panicky attempt to save her friend. In the book Dorothy accidentally kills the witch after the witch trips her causing Dorothy to lose her temper and toss a bucket of mop water on her. Dorothy watches the witch melting with her hands on her hips and says (paraphrasing), “Well I’m sorry I killed you, but that’s what you get for being so rotten.” Afterwards Dorothy goes and frees her friends who were held captive elsewhere.
Anyways, I read all of the other books and it was in the book
Ozma of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz that my mind was blown. The whole book centered around finding the rightful ruler of Oz, Princess Ozma who had been missing for years and no one could find her. It also follows the story of Tip, a young boy who ran away from the cruel witch who was raising him. It turns out that (Spoilers!) the witch had kidnapped the princess and changed her into a boy. Glinda changed the boy back into a girl and as Ozma she happily took her place as the rightful ruler of Oz, becoming one of Dorothy’s dearest friends.
The idea that a boy would be okay with becoming a girl was unbelievable to me. I expected Tip to fight or run away, anything but becoming a girl. I credit that book with shaping some of my earliest feminist feelings, because why should a boy be horrified at becoming a girl? Is being a girl worse than being a boy? If being a girl is worse than being a boy then we should fix that.
It turns out that L. Frank Baum was closely tied to and sympathetic with the suffragette movement.
In 1882 he married Maud Gage, a handsome and strong-minded woman who was a perfect balance and foil for the easygoing Baum. Maud was the daughter of Matilda Joslyn Gage, who helped Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony found the National Woman Suffrage Association. Under the influence of his wife and mother-in-law, Baum became an enthusiastic convert to feminism.
Were there any books that blew your mind as a child? What are your favorite children’s books?
Thanks for telling us about the real Wizard of Oz–and the author. I didn’t know I was missing so much by only knowing the story from the film.
Most of the children’s books of my era lacked strong girl protagonists–until I discovered Nancy Drew, girl detective.
There’s so much more to this story, too! Based on the context of the time when the book was written and Baum’s political leanings, many historians believe the book was really an allegory about overturning the gold standard and returning to the silver standard–a political movement that had a strong hold in heartland states like Kansas at the time. There’s symbolism everywhere — yellow brick road (the gold standard) leading to the Emerald City (representing the Greenbacks — those who supported the paper dollar money) where the main characters find everything is really a facade (the current estate of the economy at the time). There is speculation he modeled the cowardly lion after one of the prominent political leaders of the day William Jennings Bryan because he was so ineffective in achieving his goals. The scarecrow represents farmers and the tin man represents the industrial worker. Dorothy, of course, represents everyAmerican, and as the heroine of the story, sets everything right by clicking her silver slippers (the color of her shoes in the book) and getting everyone safely back to the heartland.
it was in the book Ozma of Oz that my mind was blown.
More than you think, because you just attributed to it the plot of its predecessor, The Marvelous Land of Oz.
Haha, you’re right! It’s been years since I read them, so please excuse my slip.
My mom bought the entire Oz collection–something like 20 books–and I read every single one. But I was the only one of her kids who read them, and eventually she donated them all to our elementary school library. I remember getting bored toward the end of the series, but I dutifully finished every last one.
the book that really blew my mind as a child was “the Tombs of Atuan” by Ursula K. Leguin, about a young girl who is a priestess in a creepy desert religion obsessed with death. It actually frightened me, and I was vaguely haunted by it for years. I reread it again in five or six years ago and still found it unsettling, but I also found the basic story astonishingly familiar, since it is also about the devastation caused by the loss of faith:
I now reread it at least once a year, particularly when I’m low. It has become the literary equivalent of comfort food.
Wow. I really need to read that book. Thank you.
The Wizard of Oz is actually an allegory of the Populist political movement of the 1890’s. The original silver shoes (not ruby) and the yellow brick (gold) road and the all-green (paper money) land of Oz all symbolize different political financial movements, the monkeys symbolize stuff, the tornado symbolizes stuff, the tin man, scarecrow and lion all symbolize stuff. It wasn’t written as a children’s story, it was written as political satire. (More info here: http://www.usagold.com/gildedopinion/oz.html)
My favorite children’s book was Matilda by Roald Dahl. Here was a smart, rational, empowered girl who was able to see the stupid things the people in power did, and fight against them. Even though she shouldn’t have had any control over her life (most 5-year-olds are lucky if they have control over what clothes they wear), she was able to take control and create the kind of life she wanted.
Emily of New Moon – and the other two books Emily’s Quest and Emily Climbs. I loved the Anne books too, but Emily with her drive to become a writer was something special in terms of a strong female character.
My favorite books as a child included the Narnia books; a set of books written by Maud Hart Lovelace starting with Betsy-Tacy (where the protagonist is 6) and ending with Betsy’s Wedding; Over Sea Under Stone and the rest of the series (the Dark is Rising – nothing like the terrible movie adaptation); lots and lots of Enid Blytons (which haven’t aged well); The Little White Horse and Henrietta’s House (Elizabeth Goudge); Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard and The Glass Slipper (Eleanor Farjean); The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Joan Aiken); Swallows and Amazons (fantastic female characters and the obligatory ‘motherly girl’)…. and oh so many others!
The Dark is Rising is fabulous! The movie made me want to hit something, but the books are wonderful!
The wizard of oz use to be one of my favorite movies. Perhaps because it was one of the few times I remember my father protecting me. I was terrified of the flying monkey’s. I use to hide behind his back and play with a mole he had on his back. He would tell me when it was safe to come out from hiding.
Other than that, my favorite books. Amelia bedialla, I read ALL OF THE Nancy Drew books too. And I also read all of the Little House on Prairie series as well.
I loved The King’s Equal by Katherine Patterson. I also liked Witch of Blackbird Pond by the same author, because the protagonist reminded me of me. She’s a strong female character.
The Giver by Lois Lowry was one book that blew my mind as a child.
I haven’t read it many times since then, but it was the first book I remember reading about a dystopia. It helped me understand the concept of freedom and opposition. It was relatively disturbing to me, but just cracked my mind wide open.
I share an affinity for many of the books mentioned here: the Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, Roald Dahl books, etc. I didn’t read The Giver until a few years ago, and I still have never read the Oz books or some of the others mentioned.
I absolutely LOVED anything by Madeleine L’Engle, and started with the familiar A Wrinkle In Time and went from there to A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters. I used to go to the library and read anything by her, random books. She had a way of speaking to me.
Later on when I was older, Ender’s Game blew my mind. Especially the books 2 & 3: Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide. Children of the Mind was fascinating too. I don’t care what the critics say!