L. Frank Baum: Royal Historian of Oz

A biography for young readers by Angelica Shirley Carpenter & Jean Shirley
Lerner Publications, 1992
Hardcover ISBN 0-8225-4910-7 Paperback ISBN 0-8225-9617-2

A Children’s Choice Book from the Children’s Book Council and the International Reading Association

I wrote this book with my mother, Jean Shirley. As a child, she inherited her uncle’s Oz books and later she passed them down to me. I became the family’s third-generation Oz fan and its first Oz nut. I am proud that for six years I served as president of the International Wizard of Oz Club.

L. Frank Baum was born in 1856 in Chittenango, New York. As a child, he enjoyed fairy tales, but sometimes they frightened him. When he grew up, he thought, he would write a new kind of fantasy story, with nothing to scare young readers. After working as an actor, store owner, newspaper editor, china salesman, and marketing consultant, he began writing seriously while in his forties. His most famous book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was published in 1900 and he wrote thirteen more Oz books after that.

Frank married Maud Gage, whose mother, Matilda Joslyn Gage, was a famous leader in the early women’s movement. Frank and Maud moved to Dakota Territory, then to Chicago, where the city was preparing for a fabulous world’s fair. Frank began his writing career by telling stories to his own four sons. He spent the last years of his life in Hollywood, where he made silent movies based on the Oz books. He died in 1919.

For many years Oz books were banned from libraries, but now literary critics agree that Frank created the most important American fairy tale. Later his story inspired the 1939 movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” starring Judy Garland. Frank’s books continue to spark new versions of Oz, like Wicked by Gregory Maguire, theatrical and television productions, video games, and movies like “Oz the Great and Powerful.”

To see my brief talk about L. Frank Baum and Matilda Joslyn Gage, click here.

For more information about L. Frank Baum, visit the International Wizard of Oz Club.

Reviews of L. Frank Baum: Royal Historian of Oz

Booklist: “Kids who have loved the Oz series will enjoy reading about its creator.”

Children’s Literature: “This incisive biography reveals how a shy, dreamy child turned into an imaginative, productive adult and details the life and literary output of the Oz's creator from his boyhood years in the late 1800s to his death in 1919.”

Kirkus: “An impressively researched account of Baum's variegated career as writer, actor, impresario, filmmaker, and devoted family man. . . . Exceptionally well illustrated.”

Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale): “This is a wonderful book for children of any age and, in many ways, rather puts to shame the ponderous adult biographies in current favor.”

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