Finding Oz: How Frank L. Baum Discovered the Great American Story

Evan Schwartz, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $28 (374p) ISBN 978-0-547-05510-7
Author and former business journalist Schwartz (The Last Lone Inventor) presents the life story of L. Frank Baum, focusing on the invention and development of his classic 1900 children's tale, The Wizard of Oz. Schwartz reveals how Baum's early interest in theatre, tall tales, and entertaining an audience led the restless young man through a string of doomed careers, including actor, playwright, castor oil salesman, and shop owner (trading in knickknacks and toys). In spite of pressure to support his family (his mother-in-law was the radical women's rights activist Matilda Gage), Baum maintained a passion for the fantastical, and sought pleasure in every venture he undertook, often by way of his talent for yarn-spinning (famously embellishing the properties and popularity of his dismal castor oil). Falling on hard times again and again, Baum had little to keep him going besides love for his growing family and for storytelling; fortunately, those were just the ingredients necessary to find his place as an author (he published the first Oz title when he was 44) and, ultimately, as a children's lit icon. A dad himself, Schwartz tells Baum's story with understanding and wit, perfect for anyone with fond memories from over the rainbow.
Reviewed on: 03/30/2009
Release date: 04/01/2009
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