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August 27th, 2019

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I started scratching my head recently when I noticed buzz about this being the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz.

Um ... no, it's not. It's the 119th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, as of this summer. What kind of over the rainbow scheme are they trying to pull off, here?

What the pundits are actually talking about, of course, is the MGM-made movie The Wizard of Oz. Not only does the book precede it by 39 years, but it isn't even the first movie version.

Fun fact: At no time did Toto climb into a giant "O".

Just for the record, L. Frank Baum wrote fourteen Oz books, and some related short tales. After his death, other authors took over writing "official" Oz books. (Oz fanatics will mention the "Famous Forty", which sadly aren't so famous anymore.) With Baum's original books in the public domain there are now dozens of unofficial Oz books, not including the one I've been plotting out in my mind.

Baum produced a multimedia stage presentation about Oz in 1908, and the first actual film, partially based on a 1902 musical play, came out in 1910. There were several more related movies, including the 1925 movie called ... The Wizard of Oz.

I'm just sayin'.

The original cover. I have what are called the "White cover" books. They're white.

Ah, but it's the 1939 movie everyone thinks of, these days. When I was a kid you could catch it on TV exactly once a year--no DVR, no reruns, no second chances. I cleared my schedule (which was easy, because I didn't have one) and caught it every year; yes, I love the movie and always will. I have no issue with the MGM movie beyond it leading people to believe Dorothy Gale is a brunette. (She's blonde, dammit! Depending on who you ask.) I love musicals anyway, and it remains a favorite of mine.

But the books are better.

Well, most of them. Baum had to rush his product to feed his family, from time to time.

The Wizard eventually came back to Oz. Um, spoiler alert! Notice Dorothy temporarily traded Toto in for a pink kitten (long story). Also, she traded her hair in for blonde.

My parents got me the collection of Baum's fourteen books, and as soon as I finished reading the last one, I'd go back and start the first one over again. Although I didn't know dozens of others even existed at the time, the first fourteen were enough to cement my love of reading, which in turn kick-started my love of writing.

Without the Oz books, I maybe would have found a better paying part-time job. But, without the Oz books there would have been no twenty-five years worth of humor columns, no extra credit short stories in English class, no working on the school newspaper, no researching and writing about local history, and no ten published books. No love of reading--who knows what kind of trouble I would have gotten into, without books to keep me busy?

So thank you, Oz ... no matter what the media.

Dorothy as a blonde, Ozma as a brunette. You know ... Ozma? Ruler of Oz? It's in the books--! Oh, never mind.

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