The Wizard of Oz was a huge gamble for MGM when it came out in 1939 seeing as how expensive it was to film because filming in color was unheard of back then. It may have done reasonably well in theaters, but it gained a huge following when it started airing on TV. What some people may not know is that this was based on a book by L Frank Baum. A book that’s book one of fifteen. Yes, FIFTEEN, Oz books.
Now, if you’re thinking about reading all fifteen Oz books, I’m here to tell you that, no don’t. Only read the first three (maybe four,) and then stop.
Let’s start at the beginning. The first book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is about young girl Dorothy who has whisked away to a magical land called OZ. Her farmhouse kills the Wicked Witch of the East. Of course, her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, is none too happy about that. So, Dorothy is given the silver slippers by the Good Witch of the North (not Glinda as the movie says( and is sent to the Emerald City to seek help from The Wizard.
This is probably the best book of the lot and, of course, there are a lot of differences from the movie. What makes this book great is that while it is the typical book of a kid finding him/herself in a fantasy world, that’s not the point. The point is more along the lines of a kid going through hardships in order to grow up. Not to mention that this world is pretty much something a kid would imagine based on their real life.
The differences between the book and movie are apparent. For one, the slippers are silver and not ruby like in the movie. Also, we don’t see Glinda until the end of the book and she’s the Good Witch of the South. Not to mention the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy are the only ones who get captured by the Wicked Witch. Dorothy kills her by, well, getting angry and throwing a bucket of water on her to shut her up. No epic chase, just “I’ve had enough of your shit.” Also, the flying monkeys are just slaves controlled by a cap the witch wears (and Dorothy uses.)
The next two books, The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, tell of how Ozma, the real ruler of Oz, comes back and Dorothy’s return to Oz. They also introduce more elements of the world (a powder that makes inanimate objects come alive) and the like. Both are well worth reading.
Then we come to Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. This is where Baum lost steam. This book is boring. Like, really boring. Not to mention this introduces a deus ex machina that is used throughout the series: a belt that the Nome King had and now Ozma has it grants the wishes of whoever wears it. This belt is used to wish Dorothy and her friends back to the Emerald City. Yawn.
Why do the books go down in quality? If you read the intros done by Baum, you’d know he was sick and tired of writing Oz books after number three. It was obvious he was phoning them in. There were some neat ideas and creatures in Oz, but the writing wasn’t really good.
So, if you want to read the OZ books, just read the first three and that’s it. Hell, go ahead and read/go see Wicked and other Oz books not written by Baum.