Thursday, September 8, 2011

Putting the gal in Dorothy Gale, or taking it out

Quick: Is The (Wonderful) Wizard of Oz a "boy book" or a "girl book?"

The holiday season is close enough that the store is making floor plans, and visions of gift-buyers dance in my head. Well-meaning friends and relatives approach this process with a variety of ideas about a) kids and b) books, but as I've lamented mentioned before, one very common notion is that some books are for boys and some are for girls. Factors involved in the distinction involve everything from cover color to princess presence to weapon count, but the most common one seems to be the gender of the most visible character(s). Case in point: The Seven Chinese Sisters seems to be girls-only no matter how much dragon butt gets kicked.

Dorothy is a girl. She's played in the movie by Judy Garland in a pinafore. But she's not in the title. The titular Wizard is male, and so are quite a few major characters, and there's a whole hero(ine)'s journey full of adventure. L. Frank Baum himself says in his 1900 introduction, "...The story of 'The Wizard of Oz' was written solely to please children of today." (The "solely" refers to the lack of intended moralizing.) Does this mean someone wrote a popular children's book 111 years ago with the expectation that children as a whole would enjoy the same type of story?

I think this will be a frequent handsell this year. If you spot me tallying how many are going to boys and how many to girls, pay no attention to the lady behind the curtain.


  1. Clearly, it is a "flying monkey book".

  2. flying monkeys not withstanding the book would be considered girl themed by the standards you mentioned but since its old it can be a classic wich loopholes that and makes it coed

  3. I don't know. Can you picture someone who adhered to these standards buying Alice in Wonderland (1865) for a boy? The classic element definitely makes a difference in people's minds, but I think the title does, too.