All my life I have hesitated about writing another Oz book, Martin Gardner says in his introduction to Visitors from Oz. Readers will be glad to know that Gardner has overcome his doubts and written a splendid addition to the many adventures by L. Frank Baum. Gardner confesses, Like Baum, I cannot decide whether this book is solely for youngsters, or also for older readers who are still young at heart. Even in the age of electronic toys, many young readers will enjoy this book. It boasts enough outrageous characters and suspenseful adventures to populate a summer blockbuster. First and foremost, of course, are Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman. However, like the Alice books, this novel offers even more to adults. More than a sequel, it's very much a Martin Gardner book. Readers familiar with Gardner's perennial interests will find several here science, chess, wordplay, Alice, parodies of famous poems. His studies of mirror images provides a new take on Tweedledum and Tweedledee. And Gardner definitely shares Baum's love of wordplay and shameless puns, as in the old comedy routines performed by the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman. A safe's combination is 5-13-5-18-1-12-4, obviously the word emerald. In case you know Oz only through the famous movie, it's worth mentioning that among Baum's many books were 13 others in the series launched by The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Gardner adopts Baum's breezy, lively style to tell a story that is half homage and half something else entirely.

Hollywood producer Samuel Gold plans to turn another Baum novel into a movie. Convinced that Oz is real, Gold contacts the famous Glinda via the Internet and asks Dorothy and her friends to come to the U.

S. to promote his new movie. Eager to see her homeland once more, and having never aged in Oz, Dorothy agrees, and her pals come along for the ride. Along the way, they must battle a rival producer and his slapstick henchmen.

You could fill a book with the adventures that occur before the travelers even leave Oz. They traverse Wonderland and the Looking-Glass world and dine with the gods on Olympus. But the story really takes off when it reaches more familiar terrain.

Visitors from Oz satirizes many aspects of contemporary life. A new version of Peter Pan stars Madonna as Peter and Roseanne as Tinkerbell. Dorothy and her pals are welcomed by Rudolph Giuliani and appear on Oprah Winfrey's show. Their plane is hijacked by an Iraqi terrorist. They also watch the 1939 film of their adventures, complaining about some parts and exclaiming over others, That's exactly how it was. The sheer inventive lunacy of Visitors from Oz is as contagious as one of Baum's own novels. But the contemporary satire lends it all a unique flavor and results in the feeling that, sequel or not, there is nothing else like this charming, amusing book. Michael Sims is the author of Darwin's Orchestra (Henry Holt) and a frequent contributor to BookPage.

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