Friday, July 4, 2014

Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum, adapted by Eric Shanower and illustrated by Skottie Young

It's always the most difficult to review the books you love the best. At least, it is for me. I tend to throw around words like "fantastic" and "awesome" and then stare at the ceiling in silent reverie, none of which makes a good review.

Ozma of Oz is my favorite Oz book of the entire canon. I was thrilled when it made Fuse #8's Top 100 Chapter Books, proving that I wasn't the only person in love with this story and have mentioned it here and there over the years but I've never actually reviewed it. Now that I'm recataloging and reviewing my personal library, and own both the original book, the audio narrated by John McDonough, and a beautiful hardcover of the graphic adaptation courtesy of my friend Sara the Librarian, I think it's time I explained just why I love this book so much.

It's the third book in the Oz series and reintroduces Dorothy, the heroine of the first book. After being shipwrecked with only the Yellow Hen for company, she discovers herself in a strange fairy country. With Billina for company she begins to explore and encounters the dinner pail and lunch box trees, one of my favorite moments. They find a machine-man, Tik-Tok and eventually civilization. Unfortunately, civilization isn't very civilized and consists of the Princess Langwidere, who changes her heads and her mind and Dorothy is imprisoned. Happily, Ozma, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, the Cowardly Lion, and the Hungry Tiger appear, traveling magically across the great desert. Old and new friends are reunited and the group sets out for the domain of the Nome King, intent on rescuing the true royal family of the fairy country known as Ev. They encounter a few mild adventures, but their real adventures start when they arrive at the underground caverns of Ruggedo, the Nome King. At first friendly and funny, he soon proves to be tricky and cruel and only the cleverness of the Yellow Hen and the bravery of Dorothy save the day. After a happy celebration in the Emerald City, Dorothy gives the Magic Belt to Ozma and chooses to return home to Uncle Henry, who is ill with worry over her absence.

Shanower's adaptation is true to the story keeping all the delightful details and quirky characters. Young's illustrations bring a depth to the story that's missing in the print version, highlighting the puns and sly humor and bringing out more character in Dorothy, Ozma, and the Nome King. It's easy to fall in love with both versions of the story. So, why exactly do I love this story? The common sense of Dorothy, the serious but magical descriptions of the lunch box and dinner pail trees, exactly as a child would describe them, the sly Nome King with his logic and tempers, the tense guessing game...there's just so much to love. The story is the perfect blend of fantasy and reality, practical common sense and ridiculous leaps of logic. Baum was truly the creator of the American fairy tale and this graphic adaptation captures all and more of the story, introducing it to a new generation.

Verdict: Although most libraries are not going to carry the entire Famous Forty, you really should have the first arc of Oz books which includes the titles adapted and illustrated for Marvel. When I added the Marvel versions, kids checked them out vigorously and the originals got a new lease on life as well. I highly recommend purchasing the first couple volumes, if you haven't already, and introducing them to your patrons.

ISBN: 9780785142478; Published 2011 by Marvel; Purchased for the library


cmills said...

This is my favorite OZ book, too. I loved the agony of guessing which objects were the enchanted children and enchanted Ozlings. I loved how Billina saved the day. I have used often one of my favorite lines from the book, where Ozma's royal position means that she can't compromise her regal dignity by pleading with the Nome King, but Dorothy, as only a little girl from Kansas, can. Many a time I've volunteered to be the one to do the pleading when others' dignity got in the way. So glad you featured it here!

Lory said...

Also one of my favorites. I picked it for the alphabet meme this week (I got Z, then O as a second choice, so I had to do an Oz book!)