Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum

Overview

KATHLEEN KRULL’S LIVELY text traces the life of L. Frank Baum from his dreamy privileged childhood in mid-19th-century upstate New York through the many detours on his road to Oz. A failure as an actor, a breeder of prize chickens, a merchant in a wild west town, among other occupations, he finally made a success doing exactly what he had always loved to do: tell stories for children. Along the way, we see the antecedents of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, green glasses, and other characters and attributes of the ...
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The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum

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Overview

KATHLEEN KRULL’S LIVELY text traces the life of L. Frank Baum from his dreamy privileged childhood in mid-19th-century upstate New York through the many detours on his road to Oz. A failure as an actor, a breeder of prize chickens, a merchant in a wild west town, among other occupations, he finally made a success doing exactly what he had always loved to do: tell stories for children. Along the way, we see the antecedents of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, green glasses, and other characters and attributes of the famous fantasy land. This is the first biography of L. Frank Baum that children can enjoy.

With the same verve she brought to her biography of Dr. Seuss, Kathleen Krull’s wry prose couples with Kevin Hawke’s exuberant paintings and drawings to create a book not to be missed by Oz fans of all ages.

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Editorial Reviews

Abby McGanney Nolan
Krull keeps the story upbeat (Baum's bankruptcy and death are saved for an afterword), and Kevin Hawkes's appealing artwork captures the man's gentle nature and exuberant creativity.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Krull (Hillary Rodham Clinton) turns to the frequently failing but resilient man behind the 1900 classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Her very readable account begins with Lyman Frank Baum's privileged childhood in a wealthy family and continues through his many attempted careers, such as chicken breeder, newspaper editor and window dresser. "Bad luck, bad planning, too much ambition, too much risk... ('Will he ever amount to anything?' some people whispered)." The chatty narrative paints a well-rounded, occasionally irreverent portrait of Baum as a plucky, earnest entrepreneur and doting family man who loved telling stories to his four sons. Numerous parenthetical asides interject well-researched tidbits, such as jokes Baum recycled in his Aberdeen (Dakota Territory) newspaper. Hawke's (Library Lion) jaunty acrylics fit Baum's optimistic spirit, while vignettes drawn in green highlight some of Baum's inspirations, e.g., drawings of the Tin Man accompany a passage about how the writer once made an all-metal dummy for a hardware store window. A detailed author's note rounds out this cheeky yet informative biography. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
L. Frank Baum hated his first name—Layman—and let anybody who dared call him that know how much he disliked it. He was born into a wealthy and loving family, which led him to be a good husband and father, but not a practical man. He always had an interest in writing and started a family newsletter with his brother Harry. He tried his hand at many trades, but constantly was stolen from and duped by colleagues or employees. Always he came back to writing. Although he published a number of books, he had little success as a writer until he wrote and self-published The Wizard of Oz, with the financial help of the illustrator, William Wallace Denslow. But before "Oz" came out, he honed his writing skills by observing everything around him and telling bedtime stories to his children and their friends. He poured all this skill into the telling of Dorothy's trip to Oz and became a grand success. But his long-suffering wife had learned to keep a tight hold on the family's purse strings. The family eventually ended up with a mansion on many acres in California, where children flocked to hear Frank tell his stories. He wrote 13 "Oz" books, all with strong girls as main characters; true to his family's belief in equal rights for women. The writing is upbeat and playful, making this biography fun to read, and the illustrations add to the playfulness. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan
School Library Journal

Gr 1-4

Fans of The Wizard of Oz will find plenty of enchantment in this thoughtful, brightly illustrated narrative. From his childhood at his parents' estate, with its "rosebushes in glimmering-jewel colors," to his various careers as journalist, playwright, chicken expert, window dresser (including his creative display of hardware fashioned into a tin man), store owner, newspaper editor, and family storyteller, Krull magically interweaves the origins of Baum's characters and themes that would appear in his "modern American fairy tales." The "Oz" books were his only true success, but they did not result in a fairy-tale ending for the Baum family. With sympathy for her subject, Krull tactfully notes Baum's lack of aptitude for business affairs and his eventual declaration of bankruptcy. Hawkes's merry paintings of the author and his characters invoke the magic of Oz within the great author's real-world setting. The Road to Oz will provide students with an inspiring introduction to Baum's life.-Jayne Damron, Farmington Community Library, MI

Kirkus Reviews
With customary vivacity and a fine sense of irony, Krull portrays her subject as a genial family man who suffered reverse after reverse thanks to a bad combination of deep-seated optimism and zero business sense-but pulled through when his love of storytelling and sense of audience at last led to a novel that instantly became (she notes) the Harry Potter of its day. She does mention Baum's anti-American Indian screeds, but in general tells a brisk, admiring tale that mirrors the tone of his talespinning-aptly illustrated by Hawkes's scenes of a frail, dapper looking gent, generally sporting a smile beneath a bushy mustache and gazing abstractedly into the distance. An admirable companion to Krull's Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up To Become Dr. Seuss (2004), this profile not only provides a similarly illuminating peek beneath the authorial curtain, but leaves readers understanding just how groundbreaking The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was, as an adventure story with both a female protagonist and no overwhelming Moral Lesson. (afterword, booklists) (Picture book/biography. 9-11)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375832161
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 9/23/2008
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 1,382,386
  • Age range: 3 - 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 14, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jenifer Wardrip, aka "The Genius" for Kids @ TeensReadToo.com

    In this biography geared towards children, author Kathleen Krull gives us an up-close-and-personal look at the life of L. Frank Baum. <BR/><BR/>Beginning with his privileged upbringing in 1860s New York, chronicling his never-ending money woes, and ending with his successful publishing of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ in 1900, Ms. Krull takes us into the life and times of a brilliant author. <BR/><BR/>Paired with beautiful illustrations by Kevin Hawkes, THE ROAD TO OZ is a testament to the man who brought us a legendary story that still holds the power to entertain. Even now, over one hundred years after its original publication, both the book and the movie are known throughout the world by thousands.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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