As a kid I never really liked the Wizard of Oz movie. I never had much patience childishness even from other kids, so Judy Garland’s acting drove me batty. (Admittedly it isn’t really her fault, per se, she was an adult woman being asked to portray a little girl- of course she’s going to act childish.)
I read the book one summer out of sheer boredom, and was delighted to find that the book was drastically different than the movie in all the ways I thought were important. For example, in the movie Dorothy is captured by the witch (with lots of tears and simpering), her friends try to save her, and then she accidentally kills witch in a panicky attempt to save her friend. In the book Dorothy accidentally kills the witch after the witch trips her causing Dorothy to lose her temper and toss a bucket of mop water on her. Dorothy watches the witch melting with her hands on her hips and says (paraphrasing), “Well I’m sorry I killed you, but that’s what you get for being so rotten.” Afterwards Dorothy goes and frees her friends who were held captive elsewhere.
Anyways, I read all of the other books and it was in the book
Ozma of Oz The Marvelous Land of Oz that my mind was blown. The whole book centered around finding the rightful ruler of Oz, Princess Ozma who had been missing for years and no one could find her. It also follows the story of Tip, a young boy who ran away from the cruel witch who was raising him. It turns out that (Spoilers!) the witch had kidnapped the princess and changed her into a boy. Glinda changed the boy back into a girl and as Ozma she happily took her place as the rightful ruler of Oz, becoming one of Dorothy’s dearest friends.
The idea that a boy would be okay with becoming a girl was unbelievable to me. I expected Tip to fight or run away, anything but becoming a girl. I credit that book with shaping some of my earliest feminist feelings, because why should a boy be horrified at becoming a girl? Is being a girl worse than being a boy? If being a girl is worse than being a boy then we should fix that.
It turns out that L. Frank Baum was closely tied to and sympathetic with the suffragette movement.
In 1882 he married Maud Gage, a handsome and strong-minded woman who was a perfect balance and foil for the easygoing Baum. Maud was the daughter of Matilda Joslyn Gage, who helped Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony found the National Woman Suffrage Association. Under the influence of his wife and mother-in-law, Baum became an enthusiastic convert to feminism.
Were there any books that blew your mind as a child? What are your favorite children’s books?