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The Wizard of Oz
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Gr 2-8-L. Frank Baum's classic adventure fantasy receives a fine, straightforward treatment on this well-produced book-on-CD. Narrator Adams Morgan tells of Dorothy's adventures in an understated matter, and his less-is-more approach actually enhances the fantastical events occurring in the novel. Morgan does not overplay the characters, flexing his voice just a tad when speaking as the cowardly Lion, the brain-seeking Scarecrow, and the rusty Tin Man. Yet he keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, and makes the story easy to follow and compelling. Listeners only familiar with the legendary 1939 movie will have fun discovering the material not included in the film. The basic story is the same: a cyclone whisks Dorothy to Oz; her house lands on and kills a Wicked Witch; she hopes the great and wonderful Wizard of Oz will transport her back to Kansas; and she is joined on her journey to Oz by the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. In this complete version, the travelers encounter characters who are helpful (the Queen of the Field Mice, Morgan' giddiest characterization), strangely frightening (the bizarre Hammer-Heads), or surrealistic (the girl made of fine china). The Wicked Witch of the West not only sends flying monkeys to attack the heroes, but also wolves, crows, bees, and cowardly slaves called "Winkies." Some listeners may be surprised by the more violent sections of the story (the Tin Man uses his axe to decapitate foes, the Lion twists off the head of an enormous spider). This presentation may not rival Flo Gibson's classic reading of the story (Recorded Books, 1980), but does bring Baum's enthralling world to life.-Brian E. Wilson, Evanston Public Library, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Santore's illustrations for this new edition of Baum's classic tale work on two levels. They capture the story's epic sweep in numerous colorful landscapes and dramatic tableaux, and they are models of sustained characterization. Though the paintings occasionally lapse into Saturday morning TV cartoon art, they generally evoke the many beloved scenes with verve. In contrast to a rather mundane scarecrow, Santore's cowardly lion is a splendid beast--looming over his companions, lower jaw ever a-quiver. The episodes in the Emerald City are appropriately green-tinted (the book's pages, in fact, are green in these sequences) and cleverly framed by faceted, emeraldlike borders. Unfortunately, the text is abridged, and significant sequences and characters are missing. These cuts have robbed Santore of the chance to realize fully his vision of Oz, and readers of the opportunity to enjoy the story as Baum told it. Morrow's facsimile of the first edition illustrated by W. W. Denslow and Holt's edition illustrated by Michael Hague are better versions of this enduring favorite. All ages. (Sept.)

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