From Publishers Weekly
Frank Baum is recognized chiefly as the author whose characters inspired the hit movie, The Wizard of Oz, but as Rogers aptly shows in this insightful biography/analysis, Baum (the L stood for Lyman) was far more than a one-hit wonder. Industrious, determined and prolific, he turned out more than 70 books, an especially impressive achievement given the relative brevity of his career: he was 41 when his first book, Mother Goose in Prose, was published, and he died at 63 in 1919. Rogers provides a condensed but comprehensive explanation for his slow start: energetic and entrepreneurial, Baum spent the first two-thirds of his life trying to find the right outlet for his talents. He threw himself into a variety of seemingly unconnected pursuits, from theater, which remained a lifelong love, to breeding fancy poultry (he helped found the Empire State Poultry Association in 1878); he was a shopkeeper and then newspaper editor in South Dakota, where he moved his young family from 1888 to 1891. Rogers, who has edited anthologies of 18th- and 19th-century literature, devotes more than a third of her book to summarizing Baum's stories, critiquing his shortcomings as an author and praising his many successes, particularly his commitment to creating strong, independent female characters. Her analyses are enlightening and engaging-she quite possibly could spark renewed interest in his work. B&w photos.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
It is not unknown for young readers enchanted by the tales of L. Frank Baum's Oz to carry with them throughout their lives the desire to move to that magical country. Baum authored not only The Wizard of Oz (published in 1900) but 13 more Oz books and numerous other children's tales while also launching several theatrical productions and a string of other business ventures. Rogers (The Cat and the Human Imagination) effectively correlates the events of Baum's life to his literary output, showing readers how his belief in feminism, concern for animal rights, and interest in technology produced a fairyland where all the heroes are women and girls, animals talk, and machinelike creations such as Tik-Tok and the Tin Woodman hold their own with the brightest and best humans. Although Rogers argues that Baum's main concern was his readers, for years most schools, critics, and libraries disdained his work. Yet Baum's Oz books were so popular that his publisher engaged a devoted young Oz enthusiast, Ruth Plumly Thompson, to continue the series after Baum's death in 1919. Thompson wrote 19 more Oz titles, after which the books' illustrator, John R. Neill, and several more Royal Historians of Oz composed a total of some 40 Oz books. Rogers's straightforward narrative, well documented with notes and a lengthy bibliography, lacks only one ingredient a touch of the enchantment that pervades the Oz books themselves. Readers interested in Baum will also enjoy The Annotated Wizard of Oz. Recommended for literature collections and all who love the marvelous land of Oz. Edward Cone, New York
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.