Dorothy and her dog Toto explore the magical land of Oz in this nice abridgement of the Frank Baum classic. This is the book version of Oz, not to be confused with the movie. The book is a classic, though, and has been beloved for over 100 years for a reason. It's modern remake adds a level of interactivity that is both fun and well-suited to the story.
Each page begins in shades of grey, but after rubbing the screen with your finger, colors magically appear, transforming the picture into the next scene of the book. It is similar to the experience of using the print 'magic ink' books I had as a child - you know the ones, with the invisible ink that reveals little pictures after you rub a special pen over it. It really captures the 'magic' of magic ink, even if the kinesthetic experience is somewhat different without the 'ink'.
This book has almost no animation, but there are lots of sound effects hidden on every page, including voices from the people in each scene that reinforce reading comprehension. There is also a 'hidden' spot on most pages that triggers the only animated element - Toto dancing for a few seconds to classical music. All of these elements combine to make a very full and interactive experience for the reader, but never in a way that overshadows the story.
This would be a great title for readers over 6, but it is also delightful for younger kids with narration or read by a parent. The book is also packed with settings that let you customize the book with adjustable music, sound effects and even the choice of a male or female narrator. Since it is a rather long book, it has a nice feature that lets you restart the app where you left off if a child doesn't finish the story, particularly when reading it to themselves. I think today's generation of kids will enjoy this type of 'magic ink' book much more than the pen and paper version, even if their parents wax nostalgic about the original.
Overall this is a really well made book and an engaging reading experience. It was actually refreshing to get away from the movie version of Oz. The 'magic ink' was also very appealing to my child - he was really riveted by this feature. I can imagine books like this being a staple for long car rides in the future, much as the print 'magic ink' books were for an earlier generation. And the best part about a digital magic ink book, is you can start over with the 'magic' again - something not possible in print.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Frank Baum/Toby Hefflin
12 - 20 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: Yes
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 4 - 10
Dorothy is an orphan raised by her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em in the bleak landscape of a Kansas farm. She has a little black dog Toto, who is her sole source of happiness. One day the farmhouse, with Dorothy and Toto inside, is caught up in a tornado and deposited in a field in Munchkin Country in the Land of Oz. The falling house kills the ruler of the Munchkins, the Wicked Witch of the East.
The Good Witch of the North comes with the Munchkins to greet Dorothy and gives Dorothy the Silver Shoes that the Wicked Witch of the East had been wearing when she was killed. In order to return to Kansas, the Good Witch of the North tells Dorothy that she will have to go to the "Emerald City" or "City of Emeralds" and ask the Wizard of Oz to help her.
On her way down the yellow brick road, Dorothy frees the Scarecrow from the pole he is hanging on, restores the movements of the rusted Tin Woodman with an oil can, and encourages them and the Cowardly Lion to journey with her and Toto to the Emerald City. The Scarecrow wants to get a brain, the Tin Woodman a heart, and the Cowardly Lion, courage. All are convinced by Dorothy that the Wizard can help them too. Together, they overcome obstacles on the way including narrow pieces of the yellow brick road, Kalidahs, a river, and the Deadly Poppies.
When the travelers arrive at the Emerald City, they are asked to use green spectacles by the Guardian of the Gates. When each traveler meets with the Wizard, he appears each time as someone or something different. To Dorothy, the Wizard is a giant head; the Scarecrow sees a beautiful woman; the Tin Woodman sees a ravenous beast; the Cowardly Lion sees a ball of fire. The Wizard agrees to help each of them, but one of them must kill the Wicked Witch of the West who rules over the Winkie Country.
As the friends travel across the Winkie Country, the Wicked Witch sends wolves, crows, bees, and then her Winkie soldiers to attack them, but they manage to get past them all. Then, using the power of the Golden Cap, the Witch summons the Winged Monkeys to capture all of the travelers.
When the Wicked Witch gains one of Dorothy's silver shoes by trickery, Dorothy in anger grabs a bucket of water and throws it on the Wicked Witch, who begins to melt. The Winkies rejoice at being freed of the witch's tyranny, and they help to reassemble the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman. The Winkies love the Tin Woodman, and they ask him to become their ruler, which he agrees to do after helping Dorothy return to Kansas.
Dorothy uses the Golden Cap to summon the Winged Monkeys to carry her and her companions back to the Emerald City, and the King of the Winged Monkeys tells how he and the other monkeys were bound by an enchantment to the cap by Gayelette.
When Dorothy and her friends meet the Wizard of Oz again, he tries to put them off. Toto accidentally tips over a screen in a corner of the throne room, revealing the Wizard to be an old man who had journeyed to Oz from Omaha long ago in a hot air balloon.
The Wizard provides the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion with a head full of bran, pins, and needles ("a lot of bran-new brains"), a silk heart stuffed with sawdust, and a potion of "courage", respectively. Because of their faith in the Wizard's power, these otherwise useless items provide a focus for their desires. In order to help Dorothy and Toto get home, the Wizard realizes that he will have to take them home with him in a new balloon, which he and Dorothy fashion from green silk. Revealing himself to the people of the Emerald City one last time, the Wizard appoints the Scarecrow, by virtue of his brains, to rule in his stead. Dorothy chases Toto after he runs after a kitten in the crowd, and before she can make it back to the balloon, the ropes break, leaving the Wizard to rise and float away alone.
Dorothy turns to the Winged Monkeys to carry her and Toto home, but they cannot cross the desert surrounding Oz. The Soldier with the Green Whiskers advises that Glinda the Good Witch of the South (changed to the "North" in the 1939 film) may be able to send Dorothy and Toto home. They, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion journey to Glinda's palace in the Quadling Country. Together they escape the Fighting Trees, dodge the Hammer-Heads, and tread carefully through the China Country. The Cowardly Lion kills a giant spider, who is terrorizing the animals in a forest, and he agrees to return there to rule them after Dorothy returns to Kansas—the Hungry Tiger, the biggest of the tigers ruling in his stead as before. Dorothy uses her third wish to fly over the Hammer-Heads' mountain, almost losing Toto in the process.
At Glinda's palace, the travelers are greeted warmly, and it is revealed by Glinda that Dorothy had the power to go home all along. The Silver Shoes she wears can take her anywhere she wishes to go. She tearfully embraces her friends, all of whom will be returned, through Glinda's use of the Golden Cap, to their respective sovereignties: the Scarecrow to the Emerald City, the Tin Woodman to the Winkie Country, and the Cowardly Lion to the forest. Then she will give the Golden Cap to the king of the Winged Monkeys, so they will never be under its spell again. Dorothy and Toto return to Kansas to a joyful family reunion. The Silver Shoes are lost during Dorothy's flight and never seen again.