L. Frank Baum

L. Frank Baum

4.0 1
by Katharine M. Rogers
     
 

Since it was first introduced over a hundred years ago in the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum's world of Oz has become one of the most beloved creations in children's literature and film. But who was the creator?Born in 1856 in upstate New York, Baum was a classic "late bloomer" who tried acting, selling, and editing. Finally, in his late 30s

Overview

Since it was first introduced over a hundred years ago in the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum's world of Oz has become one of the most beloved creations in children's literature and film. But who was the creator?Born in 1856 in upstate New York, Baum was a classic "late bloomer" who tried acting, selling, and editing. Finally, in his late 30s he took the advice of his mother-in-law, suffragist leader Matilda Gage, and turned his attention to selling the stories he'd been telling to his sons and their friends. After a few books were published with varying success, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (originally titled The Emerald City) was released in 1900. It quickly became a bestseller and has remained so ever since.Frank Baum's myriad theatrical and entrepreneurial ventures almost bankrupted his family on several occasions, with wife Maud's business acumen providing the sole relief. But when Oz became a "traveling musical extravaganza" that earned raves across America, it created a windfall. Baum was to pen thirteen more Oz books and see the production take the stage in both Chicago and New York. Katharine M. Rogers at long last gives Baum the man and Baum the writer his due in a book Library Journal enthusiastically recommends "for all who love the marvelous land of Oz."

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
For some odd reason, Baum has never been the subject of a full-length biography. Katharine M. Rogers, a scholar and a lifelong Oz devotee, has written one, and a charming figure Baum turns out to be.
Publishers Weekly
Frank Baum is recognized chiefly as the author whose characters inspired the hit movie, The Wizard of Oz, but as Rogers aptly shows in this insightful biography/analysis, Baum (the L stood for Lyman) was far more than a one-hit wonder. Industrious, determined and prolific, he turned out more than 70 books, an especially impressive achievement given the relative brevity of his career: he was 41 when his first book, Mother Goose in Prose, was published, and he died at 63 in 1919. Rogers provides a condensed but comprehensive explanation for his slow start: energetic and entrepreneurial, Baum spent the first two-thirds of his life trying to find the right outlet for his talents. He threw himself into a variety of seemingly unconnected pursuits, from theater, which remained a lifelong love, to breeding fancy poultry (he helped found the Empire State Poultry Association in 1878); he was a shopkeeper and then newspaper editor in South Dakota, where he moved his young family from 1888 to 1891. Rogers, who has edited anthologies of 18th- and 19th-century literature, devotes more than a third of her book to summarizing Baum's stories, critiquing his shortcomings as an author and praising his many successes, particularly his commitment to creating strong, independent female characters. Her analyses are enlightening and engaging-she quite possibly could spark renewed interest in his work. B&w photos. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
It is not unknown for young readers enchanted by the tales of L. Frank Baum's Oz to carry with them throughout their lives the desire to move to that magical country. Baum authored not only The Wizard of Oz (published in 1900) but 13 more Oz books and numerous other children's tales while also launching several theatrical productions and a string of other business ventures. Rogers (The Cat and the Human Imagination) effectively correlates the events of Baum's life to his literary output, showing readers how his belief in feminism, concern for animal rights, and interest in technology produced a fairyland where all the heroes are women and girls, animals talk, and machinelike creations such as Tik-Tok and the Tin Woodman hold their own with the brightest and best humans. Although Rogers argues that Baum's main concern was his readers, for years most schools, critics, and libraries disdained his work. Yet Baum's Oz books were so popular that his publisher engaged a devoted young Oz enthusiast, Ruth Plumly Thompson, to continue the series after Baum's death in 1919. Thompson wrote 19 more Oz titles, after which the books' illustrator, John R. Neill, and several more Royal Historians of Oz composed a total of some 40 Oz books. Rogers's straightforward narrative, well documented with notes and a lengthy bibliography, lacks only one ingredient a touch of the enchantment that pervades the Oz books themselves. Readers interested in Baum will also enjoy The Annotated Wizard of Oz. Recommended for literature collections and all who love the marvelous land of Oz. Edward Cone, New York Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A sensible excursion through the life of Baum. As she makes her way from the writer's birth in 1856 in Chittenango, New York, to his death in 1919, Rogers provides a close reading of his writings, which included science fiction and traditional fairy tales, radio plays, theatrical productions, and film scripts. Rogers (The Troublesome Helpmate, not reviewed) is most concerned with, and effectively counters, the pretensions of the literary police who looked down on Baum, dismissing his optimism and unadorned style, the loose plotting of his books and bad puns. Rogers is no hagiographer-she knows when Baum has produced "painfully inane" material-but she also respects the writer's good sense and plain speaking, his ingenious problem solving, the modesty and dignity of his characters, and the way "he could create a wonderful world, and . . . make it believable." His matter-of-fact style and lack of authorial presence were not weaknesses, writes Rogers, but a suitable approach to children's literature, grounded as they are in a child's understanding of reality, though also braced by sophisticated humor and philosophical nuggets that adults will appreciate and children come to understand by-and-by. Rogers also pays attention to the unstressed importance Baum gives to the women and girls of his books, his avoidance of any "punitive morality," his digs at class snobbery and greed, and the value he placed on individualism, hand craftsmanship, and unspoiled, if also unpredictable, nature. Rogers also looks at Baum's day-to-day existence: his secure and nourishing family life, many and notoriously dismal business ventures, and the financial quagmires he routinely found himself in. No new ground, but Rogers provides a sturdy and sympathetic reading of Baum's work, making it admirably plain, as Baum would have appreciated, why his books continue to be available on bookstore shelves despite the scoffing they received from the poobahs of children's literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780306812972
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
09/01/2003
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
340
Product dimensions:
0.76(w) x 6.00(h) x 9.00(d)

Meet the Author

Katharine M. Rogers helped establish women's studies programs at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center. The author of five books and editor of four anthologies, she is married with three children and lives in Maryland.

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