The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
About the Author
L. Frank Baum (1856-1919)
Lyman Frank Baum was born on May 15, 1856, in Chittenango, New York. In 1900, Baum wrote one of the most famous works of children's literature, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, later known as The Wizard of Oz. He enjoyed a comfortable upbringing as the son of a barrel factory owner who also had some success in the oil business. Named "Lyman" after an uncle, Baum hated his first name and chose to be called by his middle name "Frank" instead.
Baum's education began with tutors at home in his early years. At the age of 12, he went to the Peekskill Military Academy. Baum left the school after a health crisis two years later, apparently suffering from some type of heart condition. Never earning a high school degree, he spent his early adulthood exploring his interest in acting and writing for the stage.
After stints as a newspaper journalist and businessman, Baum started writing for children in his forties. He had discovered his talent for storytelling from the nursery rhymes and tales he told his four sons from his marriage to Maud Gage. The pair had wed in 1882, and Gage was the daughter of famed suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage. In 1897, Baum published his first collection for young readers Mother Goose in Prose, which was illustrated by Maxfield Parish. He soon followed up this work with the hugely popular Father Goose, His Book. This book became the top-selling children's title of 1899 and featured illustrations by W. W. Denslow.
In 1900, Baum introduced readers to a fantastical land filled with witches, munchkins and a girl named Dorothy from Kansas in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The story of Dorothy's quest to find her way home, accompanied by a tin woodsman, a scarecrow and cowardly lion, proved to be quite popular. Baum wrote about his intentions in the book's introduction: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was written solely to pleasure children today. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out." (From Biography.com)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is an American children's novel written by author L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow. The first novel in the Oz series, the story chronicles the adventures of a young Kansas farm girl named Dorothy in the magical Land of Oz after she and her pet dog Toto are swept away from their home by a tornado. Upon her arrival in Oz, she learns she cannot return home until she has destroyed the Wicked Witch of the West.
The book was first published in the United States in May 1900 by the George M. Hill Company. In January 1901, the publishing company completed printing the first edition, a total of 10,000 copies, which quickly sold out. It had sold three million copies by the time it entered the public domain in 1956. It was often reprinted under the title The Wizard of Oz, which is the title of the successful 1902 Broadway musical adaptation as well as the classic 1939 live-action film.
The ground-breaking success of both the original 1900 novel and the 1902 Broadway musical prompted Baum to write thirteen additional Oz books which serve as official sequels to the first story. Over a century later, the book is one of the best-known stories in American literature, and the Library of Congress has declared the work to be "America's greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale." (From Wikipedia)
Questions for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Scarecrow yearns for a brain, but in reality, he is the most intelligent of the small group in which Dorothy travels. Is this irony present elsewhere in the story? If so, what do you suppose Baum's purpose is in using this device?
Analyze the character of the Wizard. Why does he behave the way he does? Is his behavior excusable or not? He tells Dorothy that he is a good man but a bad wizard. Do you agree?
What is the significance of the delicate people in the Dainty China Country? What is Baum saying about beauty and/or about sensitivity in this chapter?
What are the power dynamics in Oz? Who has power and who lacks it? How does one gain and lose power in Oz?
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is said to be the first American fairy tale, and L. Frank Baum had indeed aspired to write a fairy tale that was different from the older, mostly European ones. How is this story the same as or different from, for example, those by the Brothers Grimm? Is it particularly American? If so, in what way(s)? What makes it unique?
(Questions from Readinggroupguides.com)
Storybooks for Elementary, Intensive Support, and Preschool