#ReadTogether The “Famous 14” original (Wizard of) Oz books are legally free online…take a trip with Dorothy & friends

#ReadTogether The “Famous 14” original (Wizard of) Oz books are legally free online…take a trip with Dorothy & friends

Most of the world probably only knows the Land of Oz through the 1939 Judy Garland version, or perhaps Wicked and The Wiz.

They know the story of Dorothy (and Toto), the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion, bonding together on a quest.

They know the ending.

However, I find very few people realize that L. Frank Baum wrote fourteen main Oz books. They inspired fandom as strong as anything we see today. There were Oz clubs. People lined up outside bookstores waiting for the latest book in the series (think Harry Potter…or people still waiting for the next “Game of Thrones” book). Children, especially, wrote Baum, suggesting ideas, asking for characters to return…and the author acknowledged that in loving introductions.

They were so popular that, when Baum tried to “cancel the show” so the author could more fully explore other worlds, it didn’t work…communication with Oz was “re-established” through radio. It’s important to know that Baum told readers he was an historian of Oz: we were reading stories of what supposedly actually happened in a place that really existed. It was possible for us, the readers, to get to Oz.

You can take your kids to Oz now.

The “Famous Fourteen” are legally available free as e-books in the USA, because they are in the public domain…the copyright protection has lapsed because of how long it has been since they were first published.

They are also available in versions that cost something: that may be because they have new illustrations or commentary. If you were buying physical copies (paperbacks or hardbacks), you’d pay for those…it takes materials to make them.

As to the e-books, though, you can just read them…on a phone, on a tablet, on a computer. If you have a Kindle or other EBR (E-Book Reader), yes, that can be a better experience for many, but you don’t need to have one to read them.

Wikipedia has them, as well as links to other places to get them:

Wikipedia list of Oz books

When I say, “them”, let me list what they are. If you look online, ideally, you want the original illustrations. This is important: there are other Oz books, both by other authors and by L. Frank Baum. Baum, in particular, wrote a book (it was a tie-in to a play…Baum was early in understanding “synergy”, doing books, plays, silent movies…an entire Oz universe), The Woggle-Bug Book, which doesn’t fit into the series and has a lot of ethnic humor that many will find offensive.

This is the series:

  1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  2. The Marvelous Land of Oz
  3. Ozma of Oz
  4. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
  5. The Road to Oz
  6. The Emerald City of Oz
  7. The Patchwork Girl of Oz
  8. Tik-Tok of Oz
  9. The Scarecrow of Oz
  10. Rinkitink in Oz
  11. The Lost Princess of Oz
  12. The Tin Woodman of Oz
  13. The Magic of Oz
  14. Glinda of Oz

If you are reading them to or with kids, I’m going to make what may seem like an odd suggestion: skip the first book. There is a lot of death in the first book, and it doesn’t really tonally fit the other thirteen. The rules change (there is a reason for that), and the later books are a lot more lighthearted and fun. That said, I should also be clear: Oz is not all sweetness and light. There is slavery and there is torture. The Oz characters, even (perhaps especially) those who are the best of friends, who have gone through many adventures together, don’t always agree.

There is a lot of adventure and fun, but there is sadness, too. For me, that’s okay for kids. I first read them and had them read to me as a child, and loved them. Obviously, in more recent times, many children loved Harry Potter, which similarly had sadness & intentional infliction of physical pain.

I also will mention that there will be some dated cultural context…the books were written in the early 1900s. However, Baum was a pioneer in female empowerment. Once the series gets going, Oz is led by a “girl ruler”, who is intelligent, daring, fair, and loved by her people. Glinda is the most powerful person in Oz, the power behind the throne. That’s not to say that there isn’t sexism in Oz, but it’s generally shown as being in the wrong…there is even a feminist revolt.

How about racial and ethnic differences? In Oz, diversity is seen as a good thing, but it is often commented upon. One of the big differences is between “meat people” (made of “flesh and blood”, like us) and people like the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, who don’t have to eat and sleep. Some of the types can be seen as parodies of types of people in our part of the world, and that might take explanation. Baum makes fun of pop culture of the day, which can be seen as denigrating it.

There is violence: is there sexual content? Really, no…there is some romantic love, but sex in Oz would be…complicated. LGBTQ readers can find resonances: it isn’t suggested at all that only one man/one woman life partnerships are the way to go, although families we see do tend to follow that model.

Technology does exist. One main character later in the books in Tik-Tok, who is what we would call a robot (the term didn’t come into existence until a play named R.U.R., quite a bit after Tik-Tok)…although he is powered by being wound up (his motions, thoughts, and speech are each wound separately). He reminds me in some ways of Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, although not at all as sophisticated.

As an adult, will you be bored? Not if you are open-hearted…the Oz books are the only books I’ve regularly re-read. A lot of it is actually better for adults, particularly the social satire.

They could be read on their own by children or adults, but I think, in the current situation, they could be best read as a group. Take turns reading them to each other (there are few things that feel as empowering to a school-age child as being the one reading to the whole family). Discuss what’s happening. You can guess what might happen next, and talk about what you’d like to see. Ask if they’d like to live in Oz, and if so, where? Which characters do they like best? What Oz magic/technology would they like to have? If they are old enough and like to write, it might be fun to create new Oz stories of their own.

This is just one thing to do together if you are outside of your usual routines.

“…she was comfortably reading a novel with a green cover and eating green chocolates, confident that the walls would protect her from her enemies.”-L. Frank Baum, writing in The Marvelous Land of Oz


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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :)

Shop ’til you help! :)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other organizations, begin your Amazon shopping from a link on their sites: Amazon.com (Smile.Amazon.com)

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