A long long time ago, I read a bunch of the L. Frank Baum "Oz" books, but I don't think I ever read all of them. Lucky for me, Josh's mom got me a giant book for Christmas that has all 15 Oz books in it. Yay! Instead of blasting through them all at once and risking getting so involved in the Oz universe that I have little time for anything else, I'm reading them one at a time in between other books.
The first book in the series is the most familiar, since it is the one that the movie is based on: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). Baum was already an established children's author when he wrote his first Oz book. In fact, he had thought so much about children's literature that he came up with some very good reasons for why the Oz books should be written:
[From the Introduction]
"Folklore, legends, myths and fairy tales have followed childhood through the ages, for every healthy youngster has a wholesome and instinctive love for stories fantastic, marvelous and manifestly unreal. The winged fairies of Grimm and Andersen have brought more happiness to childish hearts than all other human creations.
Yet the old time fairy tale, having served for generations, may now be classed as 'historical' in the children's library; for the time has come for a series of newer 'wonder tales' in which the stereotyped genie, dwarf and fairy are eliminated, together with all the horrible and blood-curdling incidents devised by their authors to point a fearsome moral to each tale. Modern education includes morality; therefore the modern child seeks only entertainment in its wonder tales and gladly dispenses with all disagreeable incident.
Having this thought in mind, the story of 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' was written solely to please children of today. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out."
Which is funny because there are a lot of rather nightmarish incidents in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and more than a little morality.
Even though this follows the well-known journey of Dorothy and Toto, along with the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion, many scenes in the book naturally got left out of the movie in order (probably) to be more filmable and make more time for Judy Garland to sing. My favorite bits in the book that aren't in the movie are the back story of those flying monkeys that freaked the shit out of me as a youngster. I could tell you about it, but maybe you should just read the book. You could easily do it in a couple of hours, so just apply yourself already.
[Okay, one more quote -- this one is for Joel:
(from Chapter four)
"'Tell me something about yourself and the country you came from,' said the Scarecrow, when she had finished her dinner. So she told him all about Kansas, and how gray everything was there, and how the cyclone had carried her to this queer Land of Oz.
The Scarecrow listened carefully, and said, 'I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call Kansas.'
'That is because you have no brains' answered the girl. 'No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.'
The Scarecrow sighed.
'Of course I cannot understand it,' he said. 'If your heads were stuffed with straw, like mine, you would probably all live in the beautiful places, and then Kansas would have no people at all. It is fortunate for Kansas that you have brains.'"]