The Wizard of Oz is surely the most famous of American fairy tales. L. Frank Baum’s band of merry characters and their epic journey of discovery, is now enshrined in our popular culture. In this quirky re-telling, we examine eventsfrom the perspective of Toto, the dog. What is his uniquely canine take on this world of Munchkins, witchery, and magical shoes?
‘Happiness for me is sausages.’
With this bold declaration, much is revealed about Toto and his number one preoccupation. A farm dog, when not daydreaming about sausages, his days are spent hard at work on the Kansas land, and every remaining minute with his beloved Dorothy. His devotion is touching, along with the plucky spirit that often sees him growling and bristling like a wolf in her defence.
Famously, Toto and Dorothy are swept up into the eye of a tornado, and blown far from their grey and dusty homeland. Oz awaits, and is introduced to us, of course, in glorious movie Technicolor. I love how Michael Morpurgo references the classic 1939 film. He understands its place in the public’s affection. He keeps the film’s ruby slippers (silver in the original book), and there are some sly references to Judy Garland.
‘I have to say, I have always thought that Dorothy sings a bit shrilly and squeakily…and she sings a little too much as well.’
That’s musicals for you! Toto is also useful in enhancing the ambiguity of the whole dream-like sequenceof events. His doggy sense of smell tells him that the Scarecrow smells awfully like Uncle Henry’s trousers and pipe tobacco, a nagging familiarity that suggests the reader shouldn’t take events at face value. Toto recalls how he always sleeps on Dorothy’s bed.
‘We breathed together. I think sometimes we dreamed the same dream together.’
The bright, striking illustrations are an essential accompaniment, as our intrepid gang of five tread the famous yellow bricks. An engaging and accomplished book.
Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of The Wizard of Oz by is published by HarperCollinsChildren’s Books, 264 pages.