Ozma of Oz (Oz series, Book 3)
Author: L. Frank Baum
Narrator: Erin Yuen

Published 2014 by Dreamscape Media
4 hours, 33 minutes – Unabridged

Ozma of OzAfter The Wonderful World of Oz (first published in 1900) became one of the most popular children’s books of all time, L. Frank Baum wrote 13 sequels (in addition to lots more novels and other works). If you love Dorothy and her friends, and the magical land where they found so many adventures, discovering the rest of the series is a fabulous literary gift you can give yourself, no matter what age you are. If, like me, you have known and loved all 14 books from an early age, reading and rereading them many times over, then finding them reissued in new audio productions is a real treat. Dreamscape has brought out four of the Oz books on audio as of this writing.

On a side note: the terrifically well-done 1985 movie Return to Oz managed to take elements from Book Two, The Marvelous Land of Oz (in which Dorothy does not appear), and Ozma of Oz (Book Three), and braid them together into one strong story that hewed very true to the tone and atmosphere of the original books. Oz fans who somehow missed that film should definitely check it out.

Back to the book at hand. As Ozma of Oz opens, Dorothy Gale of Kansas is on a sea voyage to Australia with her Uncle Henry. When the ship hits a storm, the girl is pitched overboard with only the remnants of a chicken coop to cling to. She is only mildly surprised when she washes up on an unknown shore to find that her sole companion is a seemingly ordinary yellow hen called Billina who can suddenly speak English. If that development were not enough to convince Dorothy that she is back in fairyland, she soon finds ample evidence of the fact. From the discovery and liberation of Tik-Tok the clockwork man from a hidden chamber among the rocks, to encounters with a rolling race called the Wheelers and with the dangerous Princess Langwidere (owner of dozens of interchangeable living heads that she keeps in cabinets and can swap onto her neck at will), it’s quite clear that Dorothy is not in Kansas anymore.

In fact, Dorothy finds herself in the Land of Ev, one of the countries that adjoins the Deadly Desert surrounding the Land of Oz. Before long, Ozma herself arrives via magic carpet with an entourage of persons both familiar (the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion) and new (the Hungry Tiger). Readers of The Marvelous Land of Oz will recall that Ozma is the girl ruler of Oz, introduced in that volume in quite an unexpected fashion. The travelers from Oz have come to Ev to confront the Nome King, who holds the entire royal family of Ev captive in his underground realm. Dorothy and her new companions join the expedition, and they all face a series of perilous tests before everything is resolved.

Erin Yuen brings a nice youthful tone to Dorothy’s voice , and is also completely convincing as Billina the yellow hen. At times Yuen’s admirable commitment to clarity of speech seems to overtake her ability to relax into the characters, though, and she tends to over-enunciate. While this is a great fit for Tik-Tok’s mechanical monotone, it sometimes works against the folksy, colloquial tones of the author’s narrative voice and of Dorothy’s Kansas-bred diction. However, this minor quibble is only a slight, intermittent distraction, and not enough to undermine the charm of the characters and the momentum of the story. The goofy, dreamlike carnival music that serves as background to the opening and the conclusion of the audiobook adds a nice atmospheric touch to the overall production.

Originally published in 1907, Ozma of Oz is a classic entry in a timeless series of great children’s stories. We can all be thankful that Dreamscape is coming out with these fresh new audio productions, and hope that they plan to complete the series.

[Edited to add: See my review of Dreamscape’s audio production of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Book Four in the series.]

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher as part of the Solid Gold Reviewer program administered by Audiobook Jukebox. No payment was received in return for a review. The receipt of the book had no influence on the opinions expressed in my review.

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