Earlier this month, I hosted a Wonderful Wizard of Oz themed book club at Cathedral Book and Gift with 15 young readers. I think that of all of our book clubs to date, this was my favorite. I do like the Oz books, but that is not why this was my favorite. Last summer we did some books I like much more, The Bark of the Bog Owl and The Princess and the Goblin, for instance. I think the reason why this was my favorite is that is was the most satisfying. After a year of doing these clubs, I was more comfortable than I have been, the kids and I know each other pretty well, and this particular text afforded some high-level discussion. All in all, the size was right, the kids were engaged, the text bore good fruit, and we were having so much fun that the two hours flew past us.
My approach to this club was very simple: simple snacks and good questions. I chose to bring Twinkies as our snack because the land of the Winkies just made me hungry for those goofy yellow snacks. Also, they made a nice “Yellow Brick Road.” Even though things in the Emerald City aren’t actually green (they just appear green because of the green tinted glasses everyone is required to wear), we embraced the spirit of the thing and used green Hawaiian Punch to wash down the Twinkie sugar rush.
No props. No activities. Just snacks and good questions. The discussion was lively, intelligent, and thoughtful. I loved the way that the kids saw Christian virtue in a story that was penned by a man who was anti-religious. I also loved how the kids wrestled with which virtue was the “most important” in unlocking all of the other virtues.
Have fun stealing any of these questions you like for your own book discussion:
-This is often said to be the first American fairy tale. Does that seem right to you? What makes you think of it as a fairy tale?
-Fairy tales often have morals… in this book the moral seems to be connected to what the characters learn about themselves – what did they learn and why does it matter?
-The Wizard says that he is “a bad wizard but a good man,” and that is why he can’t give the characters the things that they want, but must give them something to satisfy their need of help. What does that mean? What did he give them? Was it wise or dishonest to do that?
-What do you think of the lands inside of Oz? How are they united? How are they divided? What is American about them?
-What was your favorite land in Oz?
-Why did the characters gain the lands they gained? Were the assignments good fits? Why or why not?
-What do you think of the Delicate China People? What does Baum seem to be saying about the only people in Oz to have a church?
-If you had to go without one virtue, like the Lion, the Woodman, and the Scarecrow did, which would you choose and why?