Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of The Wizard of Oz by Michael Morpurgo and Emma Chichester Clark

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Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz by Michael Morpurgo and Emma Chichester Clark

Category: Emerging Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Eleanor Faulkner
Reviewed by Eleanor Faulkner
Summary: The timeless story that we all know as The Wizard of Oz is given a twist in this original interpretation by master story-crafter Michael Morpurgo. It's the tale of a character that seems to be so often overlooked in the well-known story: Dorothy's faithful dog, Toto.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 284 Date: September 2017
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0008134594

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The timeless story that we all know as The Wizard of Oz is given a twist in this original interpretation by master story-crafter Michael Morpurgo. It's the tale of a character that seems to be so often overlooked in the well-known story: Dorothy's faithful dog, Toto. We hear the whole story from his point of view, told in first person narrative from the moment the tornado sweeps across Dorothy's Kansas farm. Toto continues to tell the story as it happens to him in a witty and charming manner as their house is lifted into the air and whisked away to the mysterious land of Oz. Of course, Toto and Dorothy meet the absurd but loveable scarecrow without a brain, tin man without a heart and lion who lacks courage, and together they set off along the yellow brick road to find the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, hoping that he might help Toto and Dorothy return home. Along the way, the tin man, scarecrow and lion learn that what they think they are missing might have been there all along.

However, this book should not be read for the life lessons; they're beside the point in this particular version. Instead, it should be read to experience Toto's chatty first person narrative. Morpurgo is a dab hand at telling a story through the eyes of animals - we all know what an excellent job he did with War Horse. Here, Morpurgo has written Toto's narration with insightful details, enabling the reader to really get to know him. He's given Toto a sparky personality with several endearing qualities, such as a ravenous appetite and a sausage obsession, resulting in a character that we can't help but fall in love with.

Michael Foreman has done a brilliant job illustrating numerous Morpurgo books, portraying the characters and settings beautifully with his sympathetic watercolours and sketches. However, choosing Emma Chichester Clark to work with Morpurgo for this book was an inspired idea. Emma's vivid artwork contributes hugely to the reading experience, adding another unforgettable dimension. She portrays Dorothy as a convincing little girl in a bonnet, the scarecrow as an absent-minded Pied Piper, the lion as tender but animated, and the Tin Man as a mischievously comic Jack-the-lad. Her illustrations are bright and cheerful which makes helps to make the book appealing to younger readers, and it is the colourful jollity which ensures that The Wicked Witch of the West with her flying monkeys and the ghostly head in the Wizard's chair are not the stuff of nightmares. Adults will appreciate the extra detail of her pictures, especially the sumptuous patterning of the characters' clothes. The style of writing and illustrations seem to complement each other perfectly and I'm sure that the book would not be such a success without Chichester Clark's exquisite artwork to bring the story alive.

I doubt that many people these days have read the original book by L. Frank Baum. In fact, I doubt many children know that it was ever a book in the first place and that it wasn't a Disney creation. This book certainly does the original justice: Morpurgo keeps the essence of the well-loved story, but updates the vocabulary to make it accessible for today's young readers. I really like the fact that this version includes delightful details of the original book which were omitted from the film, such as the witch sending wolves and crows to chase after Dorothy and her friends. After reading this book, you'll never want to watch the film again!

The familiar story and gorgeous artwork should entice reluctant readers to open its pages, whilst more experienced readers and parents will be encouraged to investigate the novel twist. Even though the book seems given to being read as a bedtime story (divided into conveniently-sized chapters), it would be appropriate for confident readers aged 7+ to handle on their own. However, if your child decides to tackle the book by themselves, please do not miss out. Parents and grandparents will enjoy reading Toto's witty narration and will appreciate the elaborate artwork.

This book is a must-have addition the bookshelf of every family and a delightful gift idea. It is bound to be a classic in its own right. I really hope Morpurgo reinvents another timeless story soon; perhaps Alice in Wonderland through the eyes of the White Rabbit, or The Jungle Book from Baloo's perspective!

If you enjoy the illustrations, be sure to read Emma's [illustrated blog about her own dog, Plum. Emma has also illustrated another of Michael Morpurgo's books written in a similar vein and aimed at a similar audience: Pinocchio, which is the retelling of the classic through the eyes of the cheeky wooden puppet. Some readers might be interested in Cinderella's Secret Diary by Faye Hanson.

Buy Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of The Wizard of Oz by Michael Morpurgo and Emma Chichester Clark at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of The Wizard of Oz by Michael Morpurgo and Emma Chichester Clark at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of The Wizard of Oz by Michael Morpurgo and Emma Chichester Clark at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Toto: The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of The Wizard of Oz by Michael Morpurgo and Emma Chichester Clark at Amazon.com.


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