Friday, July 26, 2013

Dorothy: Return to Oz

I'm not exactly sure why people set out to write their own original sequels to The Wizard of Oz. Some are unaware that there's a whole series, but the real puzzlers are those who do know that there's a series. Some offer original sequels that seem to retread too much material from The Wizard of Oz (e.g., the animated Return to Oz from 1964), while others hash together a new story based on Oz lore, some even rewriting Baum's own stories, which feels really disrespectful. ("Yes, these stories have been loved by hundreds of people for decades, but I think I can do better!")

And then there are those that are wholly original. Which brings me to Dorothy: Return to Oz by Thomas L. Tedrow. In the foreword, he writes how his father read him all of L. Frank Baum's Oz books. So, why, then, does his original sequel completely ignore all of the Oz books after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz?

There are two Dorothy Gales in the story. The first one we meet is the 12 year old granddaughter of the Dorothy who went to Oz. So, as you can guess, the other IS the original Dorothy. Young Dorothy's parents are having a rough time in Florida as her father has lost his job and they may have to move. Young Dorothy even worries about a divorce. However, she is going to visit her grandmother in Kansas.

Grandma Dorothy is a widow who has been sinking her money into wind inventions that she hopes will get her back to Oz. Although the story of her first adventure in Oz mirrors Baum's original story, Dorothy's shoes were ruby slippers. That's right, it's a sequel to both the MGM movie and the book and neither at the same time. Dorothy has three things from Oz: the Ruby Slippers, a newspaper that changes to reflect the headlines in Oz, and a snowglobe that lets Dorothy look in on the Emerald City. But due to her obsessing over Oz, her house is about to be foreclosed on and auctioned off.

All is not well in Oz as Ima Witch, the Wicked Witch of the West's daughter, has kidnapped Ura Wizard, the Wizard of Oz's son. (When I saw these names, I already knew I was not going to like this story.) She's also taken away the yellow brick road and turned all the Munchkins into witches to help her. The original Wizard, Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion have all died of old age. (How do beings made of fabric and tin die of old age?) At first Ima tries to prevent Dorothy's return, but surprise! Young Dorothy goes to Oz herself with her grandmother's dachshund Ozzie when the rubies that fell off from the Ruby Slippers attach themselves to her red sneakers.

Get this, what I just described is covered in no less than seventeen chapters. Seventeen chapters (plus one at the end) are spent in Kansas, while only fourteen are spent in Oz. And one between Kansas and Oz. I can understand establishing your story, but spending that much time doing it is just far too much.

In Oz, Dorothy meets such characters as the news agent Grape Vine, and her companions Paper Boy, Book Worm and Bully Bear. Doing good deeds with the Golden Ruler, Dorothy sets off to restore the joy to Oz, with Ima trying to stop her every step of the way.

Overall, I did not like the book. The title is misleading as Dorothy doesn't return to Oz. It's been suggested that maybe it should be read as a command: "Dorothy, Return to Oz!" As said, too much of the book is spent outside of Kansas, the story lacks vivid imagination, and there is far too much moralizing. No, seriously, there is a moral lesson literally spelled out on the last couple pages. There's even critiques of religion in the story for no actual story purpose at all. This doesn't feel like the Oz you loved in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or its famous MGM film adaptation, but a goofy fantasy world.

This isn't just not a good Oz book, it's just not a good book. It's readable, but Tedrow's storytelling abilities leave much to be desired. I also discovered he wrote the highly criticized Days of Laura Ingalls Wilder series, which took the real-life author of the Little House on the Prairie series (which my family loved) and created wholly fictional (and historically inaccurate) stories for her. Being aware of this, we avoided the series like the plague.

Dorothy Return to Oz was published as the first in a series called "New Classics for the Twenty-First Century." It was also the only book in that series. Tedrow hasn't published a new book in over 10 years. It feels a little cruel, but I'll say it: good riddance!


Ozbboi86 said...

I am glad to know that I am not the ONLY one to have hated this book. Not only do I hate stories mainly based off of the movie but this one was just ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, I love a good Oz story, however this one just seemed like a forced Oz book.

rocketdave said...

I saw this in a used bookstore several years ago and was immediately a little turned off by the cover. Of course I don't even have to say that you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, and my advertising class taught me that simpler is better, but this design was so overly simplistic and lazy; I think I'd be ashamed if I'd done something as lame as that.

Moreover, I was not impressed by the premise. Even then, the idea of Dorothy growing up outside of Oz did not strike me as particularly imaginative or original. And that thought has been reinforced more recently as I've become aware of other books that have used a similar concept (such as The Adventures of Glinda Gale and Whatever Happened to Dorothy of Oz), not to mention the movie/miniseries The Witches of Oz. It's not like I don't think that premise is totally without merit, but it feels so cliche, I have to wonder how anybody can think they're being clever when they come up with it.

Jared said...

In Alexander Volkov's Magic Land series, Elli only goes to Magic Land in the first three books. She grows up and becomes a teacher. Her little sister Anna goes to Magic Land. In a later Volkov book, Elli visits and discusses Magic Land briefly with her sister.

And even though that's not really Oz, it's way better than this.

Sam A M said...

I've still yet to read it myself, but thanks for not spoiling anything major.

Maybe the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman's material-bodies deteriorated?

A snowglobe that looks into the Emerald City, huh? Interesting, very interesting . . .

Anonymous said...

I read this. My god it was awful. Im sorry.