Robert V. Smith,
The Way of Oz:
A Guide to Wisdom, Heart & Courage

(Texas Tech University Press, 2012)

A long time ago, the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz was televised once a year. For many of us, it was a big deal. We would gather around the television with popcorn and a cold drink and watch the movie, enthralled by the whole adventure. Once we got a color television, it became even more exciting, especially when Dorothy's house landed in Oz and she opened the door to a world of color. It was magic, pure and simple.

Times have changed, and now the movie plays on several cable stations fairly often, and the magic is dimmed, at least for those of us who saw the movie once a year. Then, too, the movie is available in various formats, and can be viewed by anyone with any medium created by those in I.T. In that sense, the magic does live on. The Great and Powerful Oz would probably be charmed.

In Robert V. Smith's text, The Way of Oz: A Guide to Wisdom, Heart & Courage, a new way of looking at L. Frank Baum's series of books, as well as his overall philosophy of life as presented in his multi-dimensional creations, is put forth. As stated in Smith's book, Baum created a world where characters represent specific virtues: the Scarecrow represents wisdom and learning; the Tin Man the virtues of heart and love of others; the Cowardly Lion, service to others and courage; and Dorothy, leadership and an eye to the future. It's interesting that the Wizard of Oz represents the virtues of humility, and the ideal that ethics must guide one's life. In Smith's book, then, the yellow brick road represents the journey one takes down one's own path, and the ways in which we can learn much from the characters in Baum's many books.

Although this book is more of a textbook for an educational philosophy or ethics class, it's full of life lessons that can reach across nearly any curriculum. It's not merely a textbook, however. There are a number of interactive codes that provide links to videos from various experts who add much to the chapters contained within this book. The author also provides numerous examples of Baum's successes and failures, and how his overall belief in his dreams, as well as his own courage, heart, brains and belief in his future, plus a dream for the future of mankind, helped Baum to live the way of Oz, and do it well.

As a footnote, the new movie Oz: The Great & Powerful may soon expose a new generation of readers to Smith's work, as well as seeking out the other books Baum wrote so many years ago where he continued the Oz story. I hope those books are still in print, or at least available online. The Oz legacy should continue, somewhere.

book review by
Ann Flynt

16 March 2013

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