The Wizard of Oz is a cultural juggernaut. Everyone knows Dorothy and the Scarecrow and the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, regardless of who you are or where you are from.
Since its public domain, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz should be on be top of the list of free books parents should download for their kids, along with Alice in Wonderland and the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. That's part of the reason I reread it.
And you already know the story. Dorothy Gale gets blown away to Oz in a cyclone. She gathers together a ragtag band of misfits. Together, they defeat the wicked witch and prove the wizard a fraud. They discover that everyone was special all along and Dorothy realizes there's no place like home.
Of course, the reason why the Wizard of Oz has become such an ingrained part of world culture is because of the 1939 movie version of it. While it is at least the fourth movie adaptation of the book, it is the definitive version of the Wizard of Oz.
I am normally the guy who always thinks the book is better than the movie. The Wizard of Oz is one of the exception to that rule. Honestly, as far as I am concerned, the movie really is better. Heck, the movie is one of the great cinematic masterpieces.
And that's the thing about approaching the book. You have to know that it is different then the movie and that, quite frankly, it isn't as good.
The movie, in addition to having some really good music, has a much tighter plotline. The book tends to ramble and it doesn't have a strong through line.
The best way to compare them is by looking at the wicked witch of the west. In the book, she appears for one or two chapters, has almost all of her minions killed by the tin man in the scarecrow before they even get to her castle and is scared of the dark. You never are actually worried about her hurting Dorothy.
In the movie, Margaret Hamilton gives us a witch that has been giving generations of children nightmares. She shows up right after Dorothy makes it to us, is a constant looming threat, and is a fireball throwing bad ass. She is a driving presence throughout the entire movie.
OK, so I've established that everyone should see the movie. Having said that, the book is still pretty good. It is worth reading and it is especially worth reading to your kids.
You see, there are 13 more books to go. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is the gateway to a whole bunch of other fun books, ones that you in any children that you read them to will probably get a real kick out of.