“Imagine with me if you will…” Where is that from? It sounds a little like the opening to ‘The Twilight Zone’ or something along those lines. I can’t place it, but maybe you can. Either way, it is a phrase that has me thinking…there is just nothing quite like a good imagination. If you read Monday’s blog post you’ll see there our list of some recent books that we call “page turners,” those books that you just can’t seem to put down and would risk choking on a small, green, sour fruit to read.
In that blog, I made a passing reference to the book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (first published in 1900 – that means this classic is 113 years old…that is cool). Our children were especially enamored with anything remotely related to Oz when they were young and so I decided to read the original book to them before bedtime – our youngest was maybe four and so the older sisters were eight and twelve. I have always had the original book on my shelf and can even remember that we were living on the farm and went to a nearby auction when I was in the 6th grade, where my parents bought it for me (I have no idea why that is such a clear memory to me). However, I had never taken the time to read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, mostly because the movie was an annual television event when we were growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s – so I guess I thought I knew the story…so why read it?
Now as a father and a professor in the field of early childhood education, I have worried that movies would be the ultimate demise of great imagination in our kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love movies and the girls and I have seen more old classic films than we can count, as well as the good new movies today. We do love movies. However, I realized that when our kids wanted to start seeing movies that were being made from good books, and more than likely books that they should read anyway, we needed to make a plan. We agreed that if there was an appropriate book available that would also be coming out as a movie that they might want to see, we would read it before we saw it. It wasn’t a hard and fast rule by any means, but we – both the girls and me – kept it pretty well and it worked its magic in the most unusual way. And it was a century-old book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, that cinched the deal for us!
Our older daughters had seen the original classic film about Oz and starring Judy Garland and Toto and a tornado and black and white to color and on and on. It is a great movie and the music, come on, who does not love to hear the Cowardly Lion sing his song of fear and courage in one of the best baritone voices of the period! A great movie to be sure.
But the book – I can’t tell you how good this book is, how much better it is than this great classic film of it. There is backstory and danger and fear and humor and a world so detailed and interesting that it is like every page was written in some alternate HD programming for books.
Our youngest had not seen the movie yet when we began reading the book, so we were all mesmerized by it as we read and talked about it and told others what we had found in its pages. It is something to learn why the Tin Man is tin and why he needs that heart. That piece of the story alone, it will choke you up. And – there really are lions and tigers and bears in that forest and it is more than a little scary to read about them.
My daughter’s imagination grew by leaps and bounds while we traversed through the land of Oz. Her dad’s imagination did, too! When we saw the old movie again as a family, it was different because we knew “the rest of the story.”
Even better, the lesson was learned for us all – a great book that was great enough to be turned into a movie, is still a great book. Next time you pick up a book, before you even open it to read it to your kids, point to the cover and say in your coolest Rod Serling or John Wayne or James Earl Jones voice, “Imagine with me if you will…” and then open up that book and watch what happens.