The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum


March 2023

I feel so very lucky to be finally reading books with my daughter that I actually want to read, including classics that I didn’t read when I was growing up. I’m not sure I thought of The Wizard of Oz as a book. It was an ancient film with a scary follow-up, which was the first film I ever saw at the cinema - The Davenport (the Davvy) for Naomi’s birthday. Halfway there, she asked if we were going to the cinema because she didn’t have her glasses. We went back for them and I don’t recall missing any of the film, but I do recall the scary Wheelers.

I loved the classic structure of this story, a playbook for both quests and returns, the uncompromising and unquestioned good and evil, the linear narrative and clear moral backbone. There is a lot of cruelty and violence, granted - perhaps the sort that wouldn’t get a look in these days. I’m more interested in considering how standards have changed, which are generally in the right direction, than cancelling anything. We should examine the past, and ourselves, not bury them.

That said, reading books for older children, or books that have aged poorly, can be a lottery with my six-year-old, given I don’t know what’s coming up and if it’s age appropriate or not. I’m not really sure what age appropriate even is in terms of how children are able to understand and process information, whether that’s the divorced parents we read about in a recent book or wizards called Oz who, it turns out, are the Emperor’s new clothes. Can’t bloody believe he is such a fibber! And got Dorothy to vanquish everyone for him! She rules, what a great heroine. And Toto - I always love a dog in fiction. Maybe I should try to write one.

And I hope my daughter gets to pick up books that aren’t appropriate and that she isn’t perhaps ‘ready for’, as that’s part of the joy of discovering reading and stories, and part of the truth of discovering the world.

We were given an ancient copy of The Wizard of Oz from M&S in the 1980s.