Before Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or even before Jane Austen, I loved L. Frank Baum. It all began with The Wizard of Oz.
But then, I discovered that there were more. Books after, beyond, and before Dorothy ever touched down in the Land of Oz.
And that's pretty much my childhood (middle school hood, even) in a nutshell. Checking out the same series of books out, over and over again, from the public library. Dorothy was independent, resourceful, courageous...everything I wanted to be. Ozma, the girl ruler, was graceful, kind, beautiful...everything more I wanted to be.
Oz (and its environs) was an amazing, fantastical place where, yes, evil lurked, but it would never triumph over good. Bad witches and wizards were few and far between, and mostly Oz was populated with talking rabbits and patchwork dolls, paper dolls that were alive, and other incredibly creative creatures.
I loved the Emerald City, and especially the description of the kind, loving people who worked for the benefit of others as well as their own. Of course, I didn't know it at the time, but there was a socialist element to city living - people distributing their goods and services to those in need (and since everyone was doing thus, everyone was satisfied and content).
Being such a wonderful place and welcoming to humans, I wanted nothing more than to wander within the borders of that country and become a guest. I grieved for many, many months (even now a twinge of sorrow remains) upon reading Dorothy's announcement at the end of "The Emerald City of Oz" that a spell had been cast by Glinda - a spell that would prevent anyone from ever reaching or even seeing Oz ever again, and because of that, Dorothy would be sending no more word of her adventures to L. Frank Baum for publication.
The Wizard of Oz movie with Judy Garland taught me a very valuable lesson, early on in my life: movies most often are NEVER as good as the books. And in this case, it was very true. I thank the stars that Hollywood has only made two of the Oz books into movies.