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From Barnes & NobleEssay from the Editor
Creating Oz: The Hundredth Anniversary Celebration
In 1995, I started to think about how Books of Wonder might produce a special book to celebrate and commemorate the hundredth anniversary of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 2000. We had already committed to getting all 15 of L. Frank Baum's Oz books back in print with all of their original color illustrations by the spring of that year, but I wanted to do something extra special for the all-important fall season.
Books of Wonder is New York City's largest children's bookstore and, as the owner for the past 20 years, I've been privileged to meet nearly all of the most talented of today's children's book authors and artists. And, since they all knew I published the Oz books as part of the Books of Wonder Classics, many of them had shared their own personal fondness for Oz with me over the years. While I was talking about this with my partner, James Carey, one day, it suddenly occurred to me -- what better way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Oz, as well as draw new attention to its important influence on children's literature, than to do a book filled with stories and drawings reflecting today's finest children's book creators' connection with Oz?
Of course, Oz has always led many young people to a lifetime love of reading. So what better cause to benefit from this book than Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) -- the nation's leading charitable foundation devoted to children's literacy?
With the blessings of our co-publisher, William Morrow & Company (now HarperCollins), I sent out a letter to my many author and artist friends. Though some explained that they had not grown up on Oz and others regretted that their schedule didn't allow them to participate, I was still overwhelmed when 30 of my favorites agreed to work on the project. They were all especially glad to know that proceeds from the sale of each copy of the book were going to help RIF.
From the beginning, I knew the cover had to be by Maurice Sendak. There was simply no one else who could bring the magic of Oz to life as succinctly and spectacularly, while clearly getting across that this was a celebration by today's children's book creators, not a rehashing of old art and stories. When I saw his first sketch, I was stunned. It was perfect! And when the final painting arrived, I knew we had a cover that would draw everyone who saw it to pick up the book and look inside.
Then the rest of the art and writings began to come in. What a treasure trove! The stories were so personal and touching -- sometimes poignant, sometimes hilarious -- but always filled with a revelation that shared how Oz had influenced each of these marvelously talented individuals. From Madeleine L'Engle's tale of growing up with Oz in New York City to Lloyd Alexander's story about discovering fantasy through Baum's books, from Robin McKinley's look at how Dorothy inspired her to Uri Shulevitz's tale of discovering Oz after escaping the Nazi invasion of Poland, each story was a testament to the power of Baum's fairyland.
And the pictures! They brought new life to such dear old friends and beloved places. From Chris Van Allsburg's drawing of Dorothy's tornado-tossed home to Trina Schart Hyman's portraits of Dorothy and the Wicked Witch to Eric Carle's whimsical salute from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, each revealed the artist's passion and affection for Oz.
When I first conceived of this book, I had hoped it would be good. Naturally, I feared it might be mediocre. But in my wildest dreams, I never thought it would come out so marvelously! How fitting that Oz -- in which love and friendship are more powerful than any magic -- should have been the very thing that brought all of my friends together to create such a spectacular book. I owe each and every one of them -- and, of course, L. Frank Baum -- my everlasting gratitude! Happy Birthday, Oz!