Pros:wonderful story, the illustrations leave nothing to be asked for
Cons:May be too violent for the younger reader. Hard to find the *correct* edition.
The Bottom Line: It's a classic. What else is there to say? If you don't have it, buy it now.
A wondrous story full of adventure, villains that you love to hate, and political commentary to boot. What more could you ask for. The edition that I am going to be writing about is the Dover Edition which was published (has been republished subsequently) in 1960. It has a green cover and unlike most editions it has the original illustrations provided by W.W. Denslow with the supplement of any other artist. I believe that the reason for this is the falling out between Baum and Denslow over future royalties for the book.
Recommend this product?
Regardless, the book is much enhanced by Denslow's drawings and it's a travesty to own it in any other form than how it was first published (in 1900 I think). The illustrations are of an older type, and are incorporated into the text (the first letter of every chapter is blown up in color and enhanced by Denslow, the pictures are in the middle of the text and not on their own pages, there is a 'title illustration' for every section of the book, etc). But it is difficult to describe; you have to pick up a copy and flip through it yourself to really understand.
The Hollywood version of the Wizard of Oz deviates in many key respects from Baum's writings, so reading the book is often a pleasant surprise for those of you who have only seen the movie. Baum is often credited as having added much to American fairytales (though not the first, that is usually reserved for Washington Irving with his "Legend of Sleepy Hallow" and "Rip Van Winkle" and his contemporaries) and the this can be seen as well deserved once you begin your travels along the yellow brick road. Warning: I will reveal some minor plot details at this point. For instance, in the movie Dorothy is given a very solid role, if somewhat naive. In the book, Dorothy's character is somewhat disturbing in it's lack of thought. She rarely takes any decisive action, and when she does it is in only the most dire of situations.
One of the main themes of the story, which was thankfully preserved in the movie if somewhat ham-strung, was that you only need to believe in yourself to be able to change who you are. The book is littered with examples, during which the characters prove time and again that they have the attributes that they are going to the Wizard to seek. Indeed, Dorothy has had the silver (yes, silver in the book) slippers with her the entire time.
Now the one part of the book that may make it slightly unsuited in some people's opinions (but not mine) for young children is the violence. I only add this because I want you all to be aware of what you are getting into once you start reading the book to your children (provided that you are doing that of course). In an effort to prove that the tin woodsman ( Tinman in the movie, i believe) does indeed have the courage he is so desperately seeking of the Wizard, Baum has the party attacked by scores of animals. At one point, the tin woodsman has to brandish his axe and he decapitates a hundred wolves. While he does not go into too much detail, Baum still makes the image stick in your head quite effectively. This, along with a few other minor parts, is something you may want to read for yourself so you can decide whether or not you feel your child is ready to handle this or not.