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Top 100 Children’s Novels #83: Ozma of Oz by Frank L. Baum

#83 Ozma of Oz by Frank L. Baum (1907)
24 points

I loved all of these books when I was a child, but this one was my favorite. It had a talking chicken, a princess who could change out her head when she got bored of her look, and a young girl who commanded her army. Everything a young book loving nerdy girl could want. – Amy Miele

Beware the Wheelers! This book contains the most resourceful talking chicken in literature. Yay, Billina! – Anne Nesbet

This is my favorite of the Oz books. Dorothy’s sturdy acceptance of her wild adventures, the strange creatures, and above all those marvelous dinner pail and lunch box trees never fail to capture the imagination. – Jennifer Wharton

Now I had to break out the handy dandy Who’s Who In Oz by Jack Snow (circa 1988) for the plot summary.  Here it is: “Few of the Oz books are as crowded with exciting Oz happenings as this one.  Not only does it bring Dorothy back to Oz on her second visit, but it introduces Dorothy to Ozma, relates Ozma’s first important adventure, and introduces for the first time such famous Oz characters as Tik-Tok, the mechanical man, Billina the hen, the Hungry Tiger, and-The Nome King! Most of the adventures in this book take place outside Oz, in the Land of Ev and the Nome Kingdom.  Scarcely a page fails to quiver with excitement, magic and adventure.”

Baum was sort of the victim of his own success.  In Through the Looking Glass by Selma Lanes we read that after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, “The idea of a continuing series of Oz books  . . . came not from author or illustrator, but from Baum’s young readers.  Smitten by Oz-mania, they sent impassioned pleas to the author for more stories about Oz.  By 1904, Baum gave in and produced The Marvelous Land of Oz: A Sequel to The Wizard of Oz.  This only swelled the clamor from fans, and in 1907 Baum published Ozma of Oz…”  After a while Baum tried to pull an Arthur Conan Doyle.  He didn’t kill off Dorothy or anything but he did claim that a magical Barrier of Invisibility had gone up preventing all communication from Oz.  Barriers can always be broken down and authors can usually be persuaded to make more money.  He relented after a while, and soon he was writing more of the books until pretty much his death.

I like to have an expert to turn to for every topic on this list and in terms of all things Oz there is no better place to go than Oz and Ends.  A quick search of J.L. Bell’s site on Ozma of Oz revealed this list.  As you can see, it covers everything from visual representations of The Nome King to its influence on books like Matt Phelan’s The Storm in the Barn.

There are lots of covers to choose from:

There have also been various comic book versions of the book.

And on the slightly more adult side, there was a series that had issues that looked like this . . .

And my personal favorite . . .

Little surprise that the film Return to Oz took most of its details from Ozma of Oz.  Wheelers and all . . .

Lord I loved that creepy film.  I mean, how much worse is it to think that Dorothy’s insane rather than that she had a crazy head-injury induced dream?

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. IT MADE THE LIST!!! I can’t believe it! I am soooo happy! Let’s all pick a dinner pail to celebrate!

  2. YES. Love this book! And the movie – so very creepy and yet so awesome. My sister and I used to hiss “QUICK” at each other for years, in imitation of the “ozma” real-world character. And oh, that headless Mombie … *shudders*

  3. Delighted to see this novel made the list. It’s indeed one of Baum’s best, with a terrific combination of the modern and the magical.

    Jack Snow wrote Who’s Who in Oz in 1954; it was reissued in the 1980s. The book therefore doesn’t include the last novel of the series, nor Baum’s Little Wizard Stories collection, then long out of print. It’s an interesting early example of a publisher providing fans with reference material on a fiction series, and from a “canonical” author yet.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Mr. Bell, we actually had a copy of Snow’s book in the office so I plucked it up for help with this post. Wasn’t sure where to go for my Ozma info and it seemed like a safe enough bet. I think it’s the reissued 80s copy, though.

  4. Totally forgot about this one!! I loved it as a kid.

  5. Genevieve says

    Always my favorite of the Oz books. Princess Langwidere, whose temper varied according to which head she was wearing that day. The lunch box pail tree, with leaves of paper napkins, and food growing on stems inside the boxes (sandwiches on a stem!).

    I really need to see the movie.

  6. Meredith says

    When I was in college one of my friends said I looked exactly like Dorothy from Return to Oz. (It’s not true. We just have the same nose and coloring). But that was my first exposure to any Oz stories besides the original movie. I will have to read this one.