My son doesn’t like reading, which is a huge mystery in my house as my wife and I love books and have a house full of them. So it’s always a bit of a struggle finding something for him to read at night. I read Bone by Jeff Smith to him, and he loved it, and he got real into Captain Underpants and a series called Dog Man, both by Dav Pilkey, but I haven’t been able to find anything else to capture his interest.
For Christmas, we got him a four pack of books with Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book, The Wind in the Willows, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He didn’t get into the first, but he absolutely loved The Wizard of Oz. I read a chapter a night to him, and he didn’t want me to put the book down. It was glorious, and I haven’t found another book yet. (But I keep trying, and he picked out a junior edition of Hidden Figures that he seems interested in so far).
For whatever reason, he had no interest in the movie. But that’s not really surprising, as he’s never interested in movies. He has pretty severe ADHD, and can’t focus long enough to sit through most movies.
Anyway. I had never read this book before, and was expecting it to be much like the movie it inspired. For the most part, it was, though there were some extra scenes (like a land of porcelain with little teacup people), but the biggest difference for me was that the flying monkeys weren’t nearly so terrifying as they were when I saw the movie as a kid. And while I thoroughly enjoyed how much my son liked the book, it did nothing for me. It’s very childish. Like, it’s written for children, and it was written a century ago so it’s also very dated. I often struggle with the wordiness of old writing. It can be beautiful, but it’s also….just so much. It’s like the old joke that if you’re going to pay writers by the word, you are damn sure going to get their money’s worth.
That wasn’t too much of a concern here, though some of the writing did read as awkward in 2023. But there’s a measure of sophistication that is lacking in the story. The characters are all thin and one note, the story is fairly linear, and the fantasy is all just kind of silly.
Maybe I’m just jaded by postmodern meta commentary that permeates everything these days. This was from a different time. For that, it was a somewhat interesting snapshot of history.
But, my overriding memory will be my son’s unquestionable enthusiasm to read this every night. And that’s good enough for me.