Wicked by Gregory Maguire
We all know what happened when Dorothy arrived in the Land of Oz courtesy of a cyclone. She killed the Wicked Witch of the East and magically acquired her ruby slippers. Helped by Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, she travelled to the Emerald City with three friends and asked the Wizard to send her back to Kansas. And of course, we know about her green enemy: The Wicked Witch of the West.
But do we really know the rest of the story? What DID happen in Oz before this little girl from Kansas carelessly ‘dropped’ in?
Wicked, is the story of the witches of Oz as imagined by Gregory Maguire. Familiar to many people these days through the hit West End musical of the same name, this novel is very different in tone to the musical with much more adult themes. It addresses politics, animal rights, outcasts, fate, friendships, and the philosophical question of what makes us bad: are people born wicked or do they become wicked purely by living up to people’s expectations of them?
Elphaba Thropp was born with an unfortunate colour skin tone and right from the start felt rejected like an outcast. She feels as if she has no place in the world but all that is set to change when she arrives at Shiz University. Here she meets her total opposite, Glinda, and despite an initial hatred of each other they do become best friends. But where will that friendship take them? They are destined to follow separate paths: one of good and one of evil. The Good Witch and The Wicked Witch.
It is how that happens and how they discover their true purpose and destiny that forms the heart of this immersive fantasy novel. Clearly Oz is not just for children.
Some books never fail to entertain generation after generation and the Amelia Jane books by Enid Blyton are no exception. At some point in childhood we all wonder what would happen if our toys were alive. Well in this nursery they are. Amelia Jane is a big ragdoll and she is not just big, she is bad. And the other toys are generally scared of her. Hardly surprising when she does things like throwing pints of milk over other toys on a regular basis!
These short chapters almost work as individual short stories which makes it a nice transition for readers to proper ‘chapter books’. Each chapter sees Amelia Jane getting into trouble and being naughty but ultimately learning a lesson: one that she seems destined to forget despite her protestations that she ‘will be good from now’. Lessons that demonstrate to the reader why it is important to be kind and considerate towards others.
In the words of Enid Blyton: “I do somehow feel perfectly certain that she can’t be good for long.”
By Willow Coby