The Wizard of Oz is the first fantasy written by an American. Its evocative use of the forces of nature in its plots and produced powerful effect on the American imagination. The story follows Dorothy, a young orphaned girl raised by her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em in the bleak landscape of a Kansas farm. She has a little black dog Toto, who is her sole source of happiness on the dry, gray prairies. One day the farmhouse, with Dorothy and Toto inside, is caught up in a cyclone and deposited in a field in Munchkin Country, the eastern quadrant of the Land of Oz. The falling house kills the evil ruler of the Munchkins, the Wicked Witch of the East.
For many of us, the adventures of Dorothy in Oz will forever be associated not with Judy Garland singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" but with W. W. Denslow's exceedingly odd line drawings for the original editions of Baum's Oz series. The Viennese artist Lisbeth Zwerger, however, goes a long way toward providing a new and refreshed set of images for the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the humbug wizard. These illustrations are often cockeyed, with occasional realistic details thrown in, like a crow with a corncob in its beak in the first portrait of the Scarecrow. The characters have a poignance and oddity that escaped the makers of the Oz movie.