The author L. Frank Baum has published 55 novels and 82 short stories under various pen names. His books have sold thousands of copies and continue to be included in many educational programs nationwide. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was inspired by Baum’s preference for fairytales as a child and was penned "solely to pleasure the children." Scholars and historians have since considered the tales of Oz to be allegories of various political, ideological, and societal issues during the turn of the century. According to the author himself there are no intentional allegories, only wonderful works of fantasy fiction.
“But to please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one’s heart and brings its own reward.” -L. Frank Baum
Throughout his professional life he had many interesting careers. He worked on a chicken farm, developed a motion picture company, was a traveling salesman, a general store clerk, actor and much more. His diverse experiences can be seen woven into the characters and events in his fictional pieces. After publishing his most famous book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Baum saw success with his work on the theater stage. His work was becoming increasingly popular and he continued to write stories about Oz and its interesting inhabitants.
Baum had a very vivid style of describing characters and settings and making his stories come to life. This is largely the reason his many books have been repeatedly adapted for the screen and stage. Consider this: Dorothy Gale with her small dog, Toto, is running from a tornado that is threatening the gray landscape of home. Soon she arrives in a bright new world that is almost literally the stuff of magic. Children of all ages seem to really enjoy these tales and bring them to life in many ways.
Whether students read for leisure and entertainment or as part of a choreographed unit of study, these books are timeless and loved for many reasons. Let’s examine some of Baum's work and discuss how to incorporate these fantastic books in a school-age program.
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