Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Happy birthday, L. Frank Baum

It is the birthday of author L. Frank Baum (1856), whose children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) was an immediate success and has since become a classic of American literature, with Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Cowardly Lion taking their place in American popular culture. Because of the demand of his youthful readers, Baum wrote 19 sequels. Although he wrote other children's stories under pseudonyms, the Oz books were by far his most successful efforts. A 1902 Broadway musical helped spread the success of the Wizard of Oz franchise as did the popular 1939 Judy Garland film. The story has been translated into many foreign languages and there are millions of copies and numerous editions in English. Baum wrote sequels until his death in 1919. Ruth Plumly Thompson wrote 21 authorized sequels after that. Baum was initially reluctant to continue with the Oz series but finally gave in to requests of youthful readers. In a note to his sister, Baum explained why: "To please a child is a sweet and a lovely thing that warms one's heart and brings its own reward."

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