Wednesday, March 31, 2010

by Evan I. Schwartz

On November 3, 1956, The Wizard of Oz was aired, for the first time and was watched by millions of people on black-and-white television sets. Thirteen years later, it was shown, again and people were now able to see it in color. It became an annual event and was the most watched movie ever.
The author, though, of the original story, has not been given due credit.
L. Frank Baum (how he hated his first name, Lyman) always dreamed of becoming a writer for children. But, he had to make a living for his wife Maud and his four sons. He tried all different kinds of endeavors: breeding chickens, owning a store, a publisher and editor of a newspaper, selling fine china on the road. Baum failed at each effort and was constantly on the move.
Lurking within him, though, was the urge to set his tales down.
In 1898, these images came to Baum and a year later, he wrote, feverishly, on envelopes and scraps of paper using a pencil stub. The manuscript was called The Emerald City.
1900 was a banner year for Baum. The book hit the stores and he became an overnight success.
If you're an Oz fan and want to know all the tidbits that inspired L. Frank Baum to write his masterpiece, then this is the book for you. Between the trivia and how Baum created his characters makes for fascinating reading. The Chicago World's Fair of 1893, Baum's mother-in-law, the number 4, Theosophy, had a huge impact.
Finding Oz is a terrific story and Evan I. Schwartz did a fantastic job of bringing Baum's brilliance to the printed page.
Highly recommended.