Also, I had a rather odd incentive to get them started on these. Muffin discovered that the TV show The Fresh Beat Band apparently did a TV-movie where one of the characters goes to Oz, and she wants to see it. I did NOT want that to be my kids' introduction to the Oz books.
I also didn't want them to start with the movie. Frankly, the movie scared me when I was a kid, and as something of an Oz purist I don't like the fact that the silver shoes aren't in it (I know some of you may be asking, "What silver shoes?" thus making my point) nor the fact that the movie establishes Oz as a dream. The books make it clear that Baum does not intend for Oz to be a dream.
Enough of you who responded seemed to feel that the girls' current age would be appropriate, so I figured I'd give it a try. I asked Nomi to pick up a copy of "The Wizard of Oz" at the library, and by happenstance she picked up the one with the wonderful Michael Hague illustrations. (Denslow's are okay, but I thought the girls might respond better to the more colorful pictures.)
The upshot is that last night I started the book, and for the most part the girls were spellbound. They insisted I keep reading after chapter 1, so I got through chapter 3. Tonight, they made me read all the way through chapter 7 before they would go to bed. And the girls make me stop over and over so they can enjoy the illustrations.
I think we have a winner here.
(By the way, when we got to the part with the Kalidahs threatening Dorothy and company, I turned to Squeaker, who was a little nervous, and said to her, in essence, "She doesn't get eaten by the eels at this time.")