Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What we're reading: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"

In early December, Ezra began asking us to tell him the story of the mean witch and the plastic man. Stumped, we asked for more clues to help jog our memory. He added a lion, a tornado, and, most helpfully, that it was a movie we had watched at the park. We realized the plastic man was actually tin, and he wanted to hear The Wizard of Oz.

One of our city parks ends the summer with an outdoor movie series. From late July through August, Friday nights in the park are filled with couples, families, and friends spread out on blankets, sharing snacks, and enjoying the last of the year’s warm evenings while a classic film lights up the night. I have been longing for those nights as I struggle through this unusually long and frigid winter. Why Ezra was thinking about our night in the park, I am unsure.

I was surprised Ezra remembered the movie. The Wizard of Oz was not on last year’s summer movie schedule, but the previous year, and he hadn’t mentioned it for the last year and half. I was curious what suddenly sparked his memory. Maybe listening to Judy Garland singing, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” at Christmas triggered this interest? Whatever it was, like Dorothy’s cyclone, something transported Ezra back to the land of Oz, and he suddenly wanted to know every detail.

Amanda and I took turns trying to recount the movie each night before bed. We both would begin with strong starts, but our recollection waned by the time Dorothy meets the tin woodman. We decided we should probably let L. Frank Baum himself tell the story.

As a Christmas present, we gave Ezra the 100th anniversary edition of Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with illustrations by W. W. Denslow. He immediately took the book into our kitchen, sat in the warmest spot of our house, and studied each of the illustrations.

We read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz every night before bedtime from Christmas until Dorothy returned to her Kansas farm. Oz was the first chapter book that we have finished with Ezra. We had started a few others, but the longer narrative and lack of illustrations would not hold his attention for more than a few days before he was ready to return to picture books.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has brought us to an exciting new chapter in our bedtime stories routine. Oz was the perfect transitional book from picture to chapter books. There were just enough illustrations, every few pages or so, to renew his interest when he began to tire of words. Since we finished reading Oz, Ezra has compiled a list of other longer, narrative driven books to read including Peter Pan, Pippi Longstocking, and of course the other books in the Oz series.

As we endure another winter storm, I dream of once again lying in the warm park on a blanket immersed in the adventures over the rainbow. Only this time I am reading aloud, one of Baum’s wonderful books, to my family of four.

What else have we been reading? Check out more "What we're reading" posts:

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