"The Wonderful Wizard of Oz": A children's classic lives on though many editions and sequels
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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is one of the most enduring classics of children’s literature. Despite consistent opposition, the book has survived countless attacks by critics who sniffed out a labor-friendly agenda, removal from the stacks by well-intentioned children’s librarians, and critiques of both the author (L. Frank Baum) and the illustrator (W. W. Denslow). Part of its longevity is attributable to the success of the 1939 motion picture classic starring Judy Garland.
L. Frank Baum was a Chicago salesman who turned to children’s literature. He collaborated with the illustrator W. W. Denslow, and they both struck it rich with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, featuring fantasy and child-friendly prose combined with Denslow’s wonderful artistry. The Wizard was the best-selling children’s book of 1900. Writer and illustrator, who were never on particularly close terms, parted ways after this collaboration.
Though The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is Baum’s most revered work, it is not his only creation. The author himself published 13 additional Oz tales illustrated by John R. Neill. Author Ruth Plumly Thompson published 21 supplementary tales set in Oz. Illustrator John R. Neill also wrote and illustrated three of his own Oz books and illustrated more than 40 books about Oz. His black-and-white pen-and-ink drawings are identified almost exclusively with the world of Oz. The last Oz book was published by the firm of Reilly & Lee in 1963.
Most recently, a centennial edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published with scholarly annotations of Baum’s sources and an introduction by Martin Gardner, a Lewis Carroll scholar and student of mathematical games and puzzles.
Last year the Ransom Center received a donation of 16 Oz books from the estate of Douglass Parker. One of the titles among them, Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, bears Parker’s name and “Christmas, 1939.” Parker received the book when he was 12. He went on to become a classics professor and taught at The University of Texas at Austin for 40 years. In his teaching he discussed “Parageography,” a word he coined to describe the idea that the geography of an imaginary place, like Oz, reflected the creativity of the author.
This donation almost doubles the number of Oz books that are housed at the Ransom Center, representing nearly all of the traditional Oz titles. Many of these are later printings, as described in the Bibliographia Oziana by Hanff, Greene, Martin, Greene, and Haff.
Ransom Center book cataloger Paul Johnson contributed to this article.