The Oz Books: Chicago History Classics

Long before Lemony Snicket, Captain Underpants, Dr. Seuss, Henry Huggins, Ramona or Pippi Longstocking, there was Oz.

Scraps, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, became a movie star before Raggedy Ann was even a twinkle in her parents’ eyes.

In 1900, L. Frank Baum, while living on Chicago’s Humboldt Boulevard, published the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. By 1920, a year after his death, thirteen more Oz books had been published in Chicago. Like the Lakeside Classics, the subject of a previous post, release of the books was timed for the holiday season. Sarah has more information on Oz's Chicago roots,

Most people are only familiar with the first book and the 1939 movie. However, I think the books only get better as the series continues. Many more Oz books were written and published by other authors after Baum’s death. I don’t like the other authors as much so I’ll ignore them.

I think part of the reason the later thirteen volumes are not as popular is that modern readers don’t know how to read them in the best manner. So, I’ll tell you how.

First, get the required equipment:

  1. All fourteen L. Frank Baum Oz books. You do not want to run out unexpectedly and it is best to read them in order. They only get better as Baum abandons literary pretense and concentrates on fun.
  2. One or more listeners.

Next, start reading the books aloud, a chapter at a time. You will find that the Oz books are absolutely magical when read aloud. And they are surprisingly modern in tone. Baum anticipates television, Face Time and a host of other “new” inventions, as well as some inventions that will no doubt be familiar to future generations such as commuting by tornado.

As Baum hit his stride in the later books, every chapter ends with a cliff hanger. The Scarecrow is stuck halfway up a cliff with the birds pecking out his straw. Saw-horse has his ears kicked off. Dorothy is stuck in the evil Nome King’s cave.

The cliff hangers are the only problem with the series. Your listeners might grab the book when your back is turned and read ahead. Then you don’t know what happened. Also, both you and your audience will want to keep reading to the point of absolute exhaustion.

Below is a list of the books in order:

  1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
  2. The Marvellous Land of Oz (1904)
  3. Ozma of Oz (1907)
  4. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (1908)
  5. The Road to Oz (1909)
  6. The Emerald City of Oz (1910)
  7. The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1913)
  8. Tik-Tok of Oz (1914)
  9. The Scarecrow of Oz (1915)
  10. Rinkitink in Oz (1916)
  11. The Lost Princess of Oz (1917)
  12. The Tin Woodman of Oz (1918)
  13. The Magic of Oz (1919)
  14. Glinda of Oz (1920)

Paperback reprints are often obtainable on the used book market for a few dollars. However, some modern editions have tiny type and no illustrations.

Copyright on the books has expired and free digital versions are available from the Internet Archive. It helps to select the format and device so that the illustrations and text are clear and easy to read aloud.