THE HEDGEHOG OF OZ by Cory Leonardo

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Marcel the hedgehog has spent six months living in the Emerald City Movie Theater. He passes the time by nibbling popcorn off the floor, chatting with the two hens in the balcony, and of course watching the Wizard of Oz matinee every afternoon. But really he’s waiting for Dorothy. His Dorothy, who adopted him from the animal shelter, who he lost one afternoon at the park, and who he is sure will come find him someday. But instead of Dorothy, it’s an animal control officer who comes for Marcel. And when he’s released into the wild, he finds himself in Mousekinland and further from Dorothy and home than he’s ever been before. With the help of a reckless mouseling, a grumpy elderly squirrel, a terrified baby raccoon, and a cocoon named Toto, Marcel begins the journey back to the Emerald City Theater where he’s sure his Dorothy must be waiting.

THE HEDGEHOG OF OZ begins with slapstick humor but develops into a heartwarming–and occasionally heartbreaking–tale. In a twist on the classic, Marcel learns to trust his own ingenuity, compassion, and courage as he leads his new friends through the wilderness. And in the end, he realizes he must stop waiting for Dorothy to come to him and find his own way home. It will resonate most with readers who are familiar with the Wizard of Oz story, either from the movie or the books. (Honestly, though Marcel focuses on the movie, the extended denouement of this novel where each character finds their way back home reminded me more of the book.)

A note: I would have said this book skewed young until I got to the ending…. I don’t want to spoil, but if you’re going to recommend or read aloud to a young reader, read chapter 25 in advance so that you know whether it may upset your young reader and/or so that you can prepare for the conversations that will need to surround the reading of that particular chapter. Think CHARLOTTE’S WEB. Again, this is just a heads up if you’re reading it aloud to your kindergartener or handing it to your precocious second grader. If you’re recommending it to your typical MG reader, I don’t think it’s an issue. All of the content is developmentally appropriate and similar to content in other MG books.

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