One of the celebrated names in children’s books writing is L. Frank Baum who penned the famous The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He produced literary works in various genres such as, poetry, short stories and fantasy novels.
Born on May 15, 1856 in Chittenango, New York, Lyman Frank Baum belonged to a Methodist household. He descended from English, German, Scots-Irish ancestry. He was home tutored like all his siblings, but was later sent to Peekskill Military Academy at the age of 12. He could not survive the tough military academy due to his heart condition thus returned home. His keen interest in printing material led him to start writing. Having a home printing press, Baum and his brothers printed issues of The Rose Lawn Home Journal. He never completed any kind of formal education in his youth instead he wrote and worked in theater.
Baum was fascinated by the glamour of theater and followed his dream of becoming of a theater actor. Even though he drove himself to the point bankruptcy, he kept going back to the theater. Eventually, his father built a theater for him in 1880. Baum took up playwriting and song writing for the stage. His melodrama The Maid of Arran was warmly received by the audience and restored Baum’s confidence. He got married to Maud Gage in 1882.
Subsequently, Baum started his own newspaper, which unfortunately failed to make much profit, therefore discontinued in 1891. His family moved to Chicago where he worked as a reporter for Evening Post and later as a magazine editor. After trying his luck in theater and journalism and failing, Baum focused on his literary career which began with writing children’s stories. He was gifted with the art of storytelling that fascinated his children. In 1887, he published a prose version of nursery rhymes, Mother Goose in Prose and its sequel Father Goose, His Book that instantly became successful.
Following the success of Goose Books, Baum sketched the fantastical place called Oz in his The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This critically acclaimed children’s book remained bestseller for two years. It follows the story of a little girl named Dorothy who is flown to a magical wonderland named Oz and now she seeks help from the Wizard of Oz to return home. The purpose behind writing this story, according to Baum, was to make the read joyful for children and to amaze them with the idea of a magical place. Two years after the publication of the first book, Baum’s hope for theater renewed. In collaboration with W. W. Denslow, Julian Mitchell and Paul Tietjens he adapted the book into a Broadway musical which earned huge praise. The success of the book encouraged him to write another thirteen installments based on the Land of Oz. A few of the titles in the series include The Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz and The Patchwork Girl of Oz.
Beside the Land of Oz, Baum also experimented with other fantastical characters and places. In 1902 he published The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, a modern version of a popular culture figure. Moreover, he penned a host of children’s stories under various pen names. For instance, Aunt Jane’s Nieces series was published under the pseudonym Edith Van Dyne and The Twinkle Tales, Policeman Bluejay as Laura Bancroft. In order to bring his work to the big screen he moved to Hollywood, California in 1910. L. Frank Baum suffered a stroke and died in 1919.