I discovered that there was an entire series of Oz books--fifteen in
all--I'm quite sure I read most of them if not all. I can still close
my eyes and see them...outsized, as I recall, with thick cardboard
covers with wonderful illustrations. To open them was to open the door
to the imagination and all the wonders therein.
|Tuesday, June 3, 2018
Over the Rainbow
am eternally grateful to my mother for giving me a fascination with and
love for words. It was she, by reading me stories even before I was
able to understand many of the words—though I loved the sounds—who
opened the doors of wonder contained in those words.
From the time I learned to read, the library was a very special place.
I got some sort of award while in first grade for having signed out
more books than anyone in my class. Most of them were pretty elementary
stuff, but among the first "real" books I remember were the Oz series,
by Frank L. Baum. The most famous of which, of course, is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,
from which the classic movie was made. I saw it when it was released in
1939 and though I was not yet six years old, it enthralled me then, and
it enthralls me now.
The fifteen books, should you be curious, were The
Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, Dorothy
and the Wizard in Oz, The Road to Oz, The Emerald City of Oz, The
Patchwork Girl Of Oz, Little Wizard Stories of Oz, Tik-Tok of Oz, The
Scarecrow Of Oz, Rinkitink In Oz, The Lost Princess Of Oz, The Tin
Woodman Of Oz, The Magic of Oz, and Glinda Of Oz.
For a child (and later an adult) who never felt he belonged, books
offered an escape from the world—and the restraints—of reality. The
concept of the Oz books is that there is a special place, somewhere
"over the rainbow" with enchanted creatures and wondrous fields and
forests and cities where anything is possible. They acted like a magnet
for my own imagination, and taught me that if I was not happy with the
world in which I lived, I was free to create my own.
One of my favorite characters in the Oz series was a little boy named
"Button-Bright," about my own age, who appears in several of the books.
He got his name from his parents, who thought he was "bright as a
button." I'm sure I strongly identified with him. As I recall, he was
constantly getting lost, then being found, then getting lost again.
Eventually, he moved to Oz permanently. I take particular delight, on
looking back, to realize that he was a friend of Dorothy's, because a
long-time code between gay men was to ask "Oh, are you a friend of
Dorothy?" I certainly was, and am. And the rainbow about which Judy
Garland sings in the movie, lent its colors and its symbolism to the
The Oz books contain all the ingredients required to nourish and enrich
any child's imagination, as it did mine. They teach the child that the
mind—the imagination—is not tied to the body; that it can go anywhere,
do anything; that it can provide a refuge, a haven, when the real world
is harsh and cruel. It teaches that there are other places, other
worlds. Every book is an arrow, a path, a guide to where the
imagination can take us.
In an inscription to his sister in one of his books, Baum wrote: "I
have learned to regard fame as a will-o-the-wisp, which when caught, is
not worth the possession; but to please a child is a sweet and lovely
thing that warms one's heart and brings its own reward."
I'd take that one step further and point out that an adult with an
imagination is still a child, and it is to the adult child that I have
dedicated my own books. And so I embarked on a life-long journey to
create my own arrows, my own paths, my own guides for others. It's been
a wonderful journey, and I hope that when it is over I, like
Button-Bright, often lost and often found, may move permanently to Oz.
Dorien has a book
of blogs, Short Circuits; A Life in
can be ordered from Untreed
Reads and Amazon;
it is also available as an audio
All those blogs have been republished here. Fortunately, Dorien wrote
many blogs after that book; I will now be publishing those here--as we
consider a volume 2.
Dorien's blogs are posted every