An updated version of the definitive guide, The Annotated Wizard of Oz
provides a facsimile color version of the first edition of L. Frank Baum's children's classic along with extensive notes and a thorough history of the immense Oz project. In his excellent introduction, Michael Patrick Hearn describes the author's early life and interests and the development of his collaboration with W.W. Denslow, the original illustrator for his books.
An energetic and excitable fellow, Baum's devotion to make-believe began in his early 20s, when he joined a small touring theatrical troupe on the East Coast. Later attempts to run a general store and a newspaper in South Dakota (then the Wild West) failed miserably. Although few of his business ventures or artistic efforts had met with success, in 1897 Baum's "Father Goose" rhymes (designed and illustrated by Denslow) became a surprise bestseller, and Baum was able to buy his family a summer cottage on Lake Michigan, christened "The Sign of the Goose," for which he made most of the furniture (goose-themed, of course) and stenciled the walls with a frieze of green geese.
The idea for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, "a modern fairy tale," as he considered it, soon followed, and the book appeared in May 1900. The 10,000-copy first printing sold out in two weeks, and about 90,000 sold within the first year. Hearn goes on to describe the many books that followed, as well as the 1902 musical extravaganza The Wizard of Oz and Baum's subsequent, ill-starred attempts to depict the world of Oz on film. (He died long before the 1939 MGM musical made his fairy tale known around the globe.) In 1907, he told a reporter for the Grand Rapids Herald why he preferred young readers:
To write fairy stories for children, to amuse them, to divert restless children, sick children, to keep them out of mischief on rainy days, seems of greater importance than to write grown-up novels. Few of the popular novels last the year out, responding as they do to a certain psychological demand, characteristic of the time; whereas, a child's book is, comparatively speaking, the same always, since children are always the same kind of folks with the same needs to be satisfied.
Hearn has gone to great lengths in his notes to this facsimile of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
, often referring to subsequent volumes in the series, slowly building a key to the rules and history of Oz, pointing out inconsistencies as well as hints to Baum's literary sources (such as Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress
), and providing, among other delights, a mini-treatise on malevolent vegetation in Oz. This is an essential volume for the Oz aficionado or the student of children's literature, and a wonderful resource for parents of young readers. --Regina Marler
From Library Journal
We're off to see the Wizard! Many readers of this annotated version of arguably the most famous American fairly tale will be surprised to learn that the 1939 MGM movie musical was based on a best-selling children's book written 100 years ago; far more readers will be astonished to find out that The Wizard was followed by a good 40 sequels, many as popular as the first Oz tale by Baum and illustrator Denslow. This volume reproduces Denslow's color drawings from the first edition (1900) and includes previously unpublished illustrations. Despite the popularity of that work, whose copyright author and illustrator shared, the two never collaborated again. As the self-styled Royal Historian of Oz, Baum went on to write 13 more Oz adventures; his mantel was then passed to Ruth Plumly Thompson, editor of the Philadelphia Public Ledger's Sunday children's page, who produced an additional 19 titles. John R. Neill, illustrator of all the Oz books but the first, then wrote three more sequels, and since his death in 1943 (Baum died in 1919), numerous others have tried their hand at an Oz story. So powerful was the book's spell that its Russian translator, Aleksandr Volkov, wrote several sequels of his own in Russian for Soviet citizens. Hearn, described by the publisher as "the world's leading Oz scholar," mines The Wizard in this wide-ranging assay of the multifarious strands that fed the imaginations of Baum and Denslow. His explanations and conjectures are enhanced by commentary from such luminaries as Salman Rushdie and Gore Vidal. Of comparable weight to the annotations are the extensive biographical sketches of Baum and Denslow, which elucidate the era in which the book was conceived. The annotations can wander at times, perhaps unavoidably, into tenuous speculation or somewhat irrelevant asides, yet the book is invaluable in pointing out discrepancies that generations of children have wondered about (why the Munchkins live in the east of in some of the Oz books, at other times in the west). And those who know both book and film will delight in discovering why, e.g., the book's Silver Shoes became the film's Ruby Slippers. Hearn, unlike Martin Gardner, the author of The Annotated Alice (LJ 12/99), had many sequels and a film to treat. His painstaking annotation shows us Baum's Wizard as a whiz of a wiz if ever a wiz there was. Highly recommended.-DEdward Cone, New York
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