Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum)

I love the Wizard of Oz. Seriously. Love. It. I am all about some "Somewhere oooover the rainbow..." "Follow the yellow brick road!" and "If I only had a brain." and "I'll get you, and your little dog, too!" and "I'm mellllttttiiiinnnggg!"

And those Munchkins? Don't you dare get me started.

But y'all. Judy Garland had it all wrong. All joking aside, the movie version should have had a disclaimer stating that it was loosely based on the book. There is so much left out, so much that is changed in the version written for the big screen.

Originally published in 1900, it all starts out about the same way. Dorothy has lost both her parents and is living with her aunt and uncle. A cyclone takes away Dorothy and her dog Toto to Munchkin Land, where her house accidentally kills the Wicked Witch of the East. The Good Witch of the North sends Dorothy (with the East Witch's silver shoes-NOT ruby slippers) on a journey to the Emerald City to get help there from the Wizard of Oz. Along her way, she meets the characters we know and love so well from the 1939 movie: Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion. In the book, however, the story goes into great detail about the Tin Woodman and how he came to be rusted there on the side of the road. As the book tells it, the Tin Man used to be just a woodman who was in love with a girl. The Wicked Witch of the East put a hex on his axe, which turned against him and chopped his limbs off one by one. They were replaced with tin prosthetics until his entire body was made only of tin. His tin body was not given a heart, so he was unable to continue loving the girl he had lost his life over.

The Wicked Witch of the West blames Dorothy for her sister's death and sets out to doing whatever she can to keep her from getting to the Land of Oz. She sends hordes of crows, bees, and wolves to try and stop them. Two additional differences from the movie are that the Wicked Witch of the West has an army of Winkies in her service AND the witch has this Golden Hat. The Golden Hat grants permission to the owner to summon an army of winged monkeys to do her/his bidding. The witch uses her last summoning on Dorothy and her gang, and the monkeys tear apart the Tin Man and Scarecrow. Dorothy gets angry and throws a bucket of water on the witch, wherein she melts theatrically. No surprise there, at least.

So now Dorothy has the Golden Hat. She uses it to get the winged monkeys and the Winkies to help them all get put back together and taken to the Emerald City. They meet the wizard who really isn't a wizard at all, and he accidentally leaves Dorothy and Toto behind when his hot air balloon takes off unexpectedly. Dorothy and her friends make the long journey to see Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. After another series of adventures involving a giant spider and crazy trees, they make it to Glinda. Glinda tells Dorothy that the silver shoes have been her way home the entire time, and so they are. Dorothy and Toto are returned to her aunt's and uncle's house, and they all live happily ever after.

Check it out yourself in Google Books.

The Lightning Thief (Rick Riordan) [Percy Jackson Series: #1]

Percy Jackson is just a regular kid. Just a regular, middle school kid. Sure, weird things happen to him. Water does strange things when he feels strong emotions. Or does it? Maybe he imagines it.

Actually, Percy J is sort of a son of Poseidon. It's kind of a long story, but Papa Poseidon and human Mama Jackson go their separate ways and Percy never knows his father. And it's all fun and games until a lightning bolt gets stolen. A rather important lightning bolt. Zeus's lightning bolt, to be exact. Zeus thinks Poseidon took it, Poseidon blames Hades, Hades blames everyone, and the world is going to implode unless that bolt can be recovered.

Percy Jackson and his friends are the kids for the job. They trek all over tarnation trying to locate the bolt and then return it back to Zeus in order to stop World War III, and all along the way it seems that everyone and everything are trying to stop them.

This is the first installment in the Percy Jackson series. The series is wildly popular with kids, and in its movie form as well. I can see why! Incredible suspense, Greek mythology, and classic good vs. evil all make for strong elements in young adult literature. I found it interesting that the author is a middle school English teacher. That explains how he nails middle school humor and logic so well.

Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid (Lemony Snicket)

Lemony Snicket (which I think is a pseudonym for Daniel Handler, and a writer who I find fabulously entertaining) is best known for his authorship of the Series of Unfortunate Events. I have a few books left to complete the series, but I know enough about them to know that A) Lemony Snicket is hilarious, and B) this series in particular is most delicious when consumed audibly.

Horseradish is a collection of maxims that are categorized by applicable areas of life (as Lemony Snicket sees them), including Home, Family, Literature, A Life of Mystery, the Mystery of Life, and An Overall Feeling of Doom that One Cannot Ever Escape No Matter What One Does, etc. There are some adages that are of a more serious nature, and others which seem serious but end silly. And then there are those that start silly and end serious. Something for everyone, you see.

Just a few of my favorites:

"No matter who you are, no matter where you live, and no matter how many people are chasing you, what you don't read is often as important as what you do read."

"A good library will never be too neat, or too dusty, because somebody will always be in it, taking books off the shelves and staying up late to read them."

"A library is like an island in the middle of a vast sea of ignorance, particularly if the library is very tall and the surrounding area has been flooded."

"Love can change a person the way a parent can change a baby - awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess."

"Just about everything in this world is easier said than done, with the exception of "systematically assisting Sisyphus's stealthy, cyst-susceptible sister," which is easier done than said."

Easily consumed in one sitting, Horseradish is sarcasm at its best.

Gone With the Wand (Margie Palatini)


Margie Palatini is one of the funniest children's authors there is. I fell for her at Piggie Pie, and have long since been her biggest fan. She manages to write in such a witty, funny way that makes kids roll around on the carpet laughing and it gives us grown-ups a good chuckle too. I love the way her stories are just plain funny, and I love the way kids love her books. 

Gone With the Wand is the tale of a fairy godmother who was having a "bad wand day." Suddenly her wand wouldn't work, and through the help of another fairy friend, she makes a valiant attempt at finding another line of fairy godmother work that would crank up her wand magic once more. There are some zany adventures that will crack your kids up before this fairy godmother gets her very own "happily ever after."


I Have a Dream (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

In this book, fifteen winners of the Coretta Scott King Award come together to illustrate Dr. King's most famous oratory in its entirety. Each page illustrates a section of his "I Have a Dream" speech that was given on the steps of the Lincoln monument on August 28,1963. It is a brilliant work, giving readers a visual connection to the events that had taken place to inspire Dr. King's speech.

My favorite line from each page:
-I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
-This momentous decree [the Emancipation Proclamation] came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering justice.
-But one hundred years later...the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination...
-When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir....It is obvious today that America has defaulted on the promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned....But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.
-This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
-There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.
-Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.
-We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality...We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto into a larger one.
-We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating, "For Whites Only."
-You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
-I have a dream one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed - we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
-I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
-I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with words of interposition and nullification, one day, right there in Alabama, little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today!
-With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
-...And when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children - black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics - will be able to join hands and to sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last."

After slowly reading through the book, I then located the audio of Dr. King's speech online, and read it again, this time listening to this great man deliver his speech. And I cannot tell you how moving it is. Over and over I got chills, hearing the passion of Dr. King and the people whose voices are heard cheering in the background. Especially as the mother to two daughters, one who is white and one who is Ugandan American, the line about little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers is especially moving to me. Thank God for Dr. King and others who had the courage to stand up for freedom!

There is a special foreword written by Coretta Scott King. Her comments are the book include the following quote:
"His vision of peace with justice and love for everyone still inspires and challenges us to create the beloved community. His legacy of courage, determination, and nonviolence still lights the way to the fulfillment of his dream. May God give us the wisdom and strength to carry forward his unfinished work."

Amen and amen.

Listen to Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech here.