The Road to Oz: Uninspired and repetitive

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Road to Oz by L. Frank Baum children's fantasy book reviewsThe Road to Oz by L. Frank Baum

OK. It’s obvious what’s going on here. As L. Frank Baum explained in the foreword to one of the OZ books (and I’ve seen such sentiments in some of his other forewords, too):

It’s no use; no use at all. The children won’t let me stop telling tales of the Land of Oz. I know lots of other stories, and I hope to tell them, some time or another; but just now my loving tyrants won’t allow me. They cry: “Oz — Oz! more about Oz, Mr. Baum!” and what can I do but obey their commands?

I think it’s sweet that Baum wanted to satisfy his readers, but these stories are starting to feel like they were quickly and thoughtlessly thrown together just to satisfy those loving tyrants.

In The Road to Oz, Dorothy and Toto meet the Shaggy Man who carries a love magnet so that everyone will love him. Together they begin walking and get lost on an unfamiliar road through what is obviously another fairy realm. Then they meet a boy who claims his name is Button-Bright who is also lost. Button-Bright answers most questions with “don’t know” which is why Dorothy says he is “awful stupid.” (And why he makes a really dull character.) Then they meet a flighty girl named Polychrome who is the daughter of the Rainbow. She doesn’t have much personality, either.

Together they walk to Foxville, which is a town where everyone has the face of a fox. The King of Foxville asks Dorothy to get him an invitation to Ozma’s birthday party. Dorothy and her friends realize that they can get to Oz and attend the party. They travel through some dangerous lands and almost get cooked in a soup pot because, once again, Dorothy doesn’t think to use the magical sign that will tell Princess Ozma to bring them directly to Oz.

The Road to Oz had potential. I liked the town of Dunkiton where the citizens have the heads of donkeys and love to use big words. They think they’re so clever that they don’t need to read books because they already know everything. Everyone else thinks they’re clever, too, because of the big words. But the Shaggy Man is not fooled. He observes: “the more stupid one is, the more he thinks he knows.”

Dunkiton was the only interesting and clever part of The Road to Oz. Unfortunately, the story mostly feels like a quick trip through Oz to satisfy those loving tyrants who are eager to go back for a visit. There are a lot of introductions of old characters to new characters and a lot of reminiscing about people and events from previous books. For example, when Tik-Tok shows up, Dorothy introduces him to her new friends and tells them all about him, re-hashing everything we already know about Tik-Tok. Same for all the other characters who we know from previous books. We even hear some of the same jokes.

A few more new characters are introduced, but instead of being the unique creations we’re used to from Baum, some, such as Santa Claus and The Gingerbread Man, come with all the work done for him. How dull.

I listened to Regent Press’ audio version narrated by Ron Knowles. It was pretty good, but I prefer a female narrator for the OZ books in which Dorothy is the main character.

My verdict is that you should skip The Road to Oz.


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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4 comments

  1. Sandy Ferber /

    Kat, one quick question: Where can I pick up one of those “love magnets”?

  2. I’ll be staying off the Road to Oz, thanks.

  3. Sandy, I think you have to go to Oz. And the way to get there is on the Road to Oz. Sorry.

    Marion, you’re welcome.

  4. I really wish Aunt Em and Uncle Henry had taught Dorothy about “stranger danger.” Wandering away from home because a hobo with a “love magnet” says he’s lost is probably how most episodes of CSI: Oz start.

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