This summer, every Monday and Wednesday, I am hosting a series of guest posts here on my blog, a series called Middle Grade Memories. In this series, authors, agents, librarians, and editors talk about their favorite childhood middle grade books. I’m beyond thrilled to share their middle grade memories with you.
Below is the fifth post in the series, by Rita Meade, a public librarian in Brooklyn. Read on as Rita talks about one of her favorite childhood middle grade books, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Then check out the giveaway!
I was kind of a strange kid. Not strange in, like, a “Children of the Corn” sort of way, but rather, I was very quiet, serious, and introspective. I had a few friendships, but they waxed and waned as childhood friendships do and I sometimes found myself feeling misunderstood and lonely. As a result, and as many people reading this can surely relate, I lost myself in books. (It wouldn’t be until I was older that I actually started to find myself in books, but that’s a different subject altogether.) Books were an escape, a refuge, a cloak of invisibility. And when I found a book that featured characters to which I could relate in “strangeness,” I became dedicated to these books like, well, like those “Children of the Corn” kids did to their sinister little leader – fanatically, blindly, and without question.
There were many books I loved as a kid and several authors/series to which I became a faithful reader. But if children’s literature were a religion, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum would have been my bible. I can’t recall if I saw the movie first or read the books first, but, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. I loved each experience separately and for different reasons. The movie was filled with color (mostly) and music and spectacle, while the books were more detailed, a bit darker, and allowed me to form my own picture of Oz in my head. I remember scouring the shelves at my local library and picking out one of the many Oz books to read; there were 14 books in all, and my library was well-stocked. Honestly, I didn’t even love every installment, (I probably could have done without King Rinkitink’s story. What was WITH that guy?) but I was loyal and read each to its end, and often multiple times.
When I was in second grade, my elementary school put on a production of “The Wizard of Oz.” I auditioned for the role of Dorothy and was pretty crushed when I didn’t get it. I was made a narrator instead, which was probably a testament to my reading skills, but dammit, I wanted to wear those ruby slippers (which were silver in the books, of course). The funny thing was, I didn’t even always LIKE the character of Dorothy. I found her at times to be bossy, rude, and, as far as my eight-year-old sensibilities could recognize, unrefined. However, I related to her in certain essential ways, and I envied completely her adventures, both good and bad.
L. Frank Baum created a world that I found endlessly fascinating. Even though it was Dorothy’s great wish to return home, I actually felt a bit sad at the end of the first book when she went back to Kansas and was delighted when she returned to Oz in subsequent books. I loved being able to explore Oz’s secrets, mysteries, and dangers. And I suppose that when I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, I was subconsciously comforted by the fact that this lonely and misunderstood girl found a group of friends who supported her unconditionally through her journeys. They were flawed friends, and they sometimes made mistakes, but they were there for Dorothy when she needed them most.
A few years ago, I bought a book that has all 14 of Baum’s Oz books (plus Little Wizard Stories of Oz, Baum’s collection of short stories) in one dense, small-print volume. Honestly, I have been a bit hesitant to return to the Land of Oz as an adult. I guess there’s always a fear of discovering that the things you loved during childhood have lost some of their gleam when you got older. But I have a feeling that if I were to delve back into the series, I’d experience the same magic and wonder I did as a kid. Maybe I’ll crack open that book and start re-reading. If you’d like to join me, here’s a list of the entire Oz canon for you to check out. I hope you enjoy going over the rainbow as much as I did.
1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
2. The Marvelous 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)
Source: good ol’ Wikipedia:
Rita is a public librarian in Brooklyn. She has a Master’s degree in Library Science and another Master’s degree in Secondary English Education. She experiences strange and wonderful things in her line of work. She likes to share them at her blog, www.screwydecimal.com.
To celebrate Rita’s post, I am giving away a copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!
To win, simply comment below and tell me about your experience with The Wizard of Oz! Have you read and loved it? How did it influence you? What about any of the other Oz books? What are your middle grade memories?
For an extra entry, tweet about this post and include the link to your tweet in your comment.
This giveaway begins now and ends Monday, June 18 at 11:59 a.m. EST. The winner will be announced shortly thereafter. This giveaway is international.
EDITED 6/18: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winner . . .
Thanks to everyone who commented on this post. Stay tuned to Middle Grade Memories for more giveaways throughout the summer!
Love Middle Grade Memories? Check back on Mondays and Wednesdays throughout the summer for more in this series!
You can view previous Middle Grade Memories posts below: