Young Readers

"Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."

You're right, Dorothy, and that's the problem: You've been in Hollywood since 1939. That year, the MGM movie fell out of the sky and squashed L. Frank Baum's book into relative obscurity.

Well, click your heels together three times and gather the munchkins around: The University Press of Kansas has just published a delightful centennial edition of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." The squarish book is illustrated with haunting but witty wood-cuts by Michael McCurdy that provide a fresh, anti-Hollywood interpretation of the story. How else to compete with a film that most people have etched in their minds? Like those ruby slippers - silver in Baum's original - the hundred-year-old story has surprising power. Dorothy's struggle to get back home is told in a clear, simple voice laced with irony that children and adults can enjoy. The Scarecrow solves a host of challenges in his search for a brain, the Tin Woodman is a model of compassion while he yearns for a heart, and the Cowardly Lion risks his life for his friends. The theme is comically clear long before Oz tells each of them they've always had the qualities they need. The Grimm carnage omitted from the MGM film is here, but it won't bother children as they read about the people made of china, the witch's Winkie slaves, or the kingdom of mice. And what a delight to learn how the Woodman became a Tin man or to discover that those scary flying monkeys aren't so bad, after all. Stop the video: There's no place like Baum.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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