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The Road to Oz    by Kathleen Krull & Kevin Hawkes order for
Road to Oz
by Kathleen Krull
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Have you ever wondered about what life was like for the creator of such hugely popular stories as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz? Wonder no more. Instead, follow the yellow brick road through Kathleen Krull's The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum, a delightful picture book biography, humorously illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.

The introduction tells us that (hard as it is to believe) 'Once upon a time, there was no Dorothy from Kansas and her little dog, Toto ... Someone had to make it all up.' She then introduces us to a small, bookish, imaginative, pampered boy named Frank, scion of a wealthy family in 1860s rural New York. He daydreamed about everything around him, like the 'scarecrows out in the farms and fields'. At fourteen, his dad bought him a printing press and he produced a monthly newsletter about family life. He later attempted a novel, but couldn't settle on a career.

Frank embarked on a variety of risky enterprises, like a theatre company. He was a poultry breeder for a while and also a traveling salesman. But his family life - with his beloved wife Maud Gage - was very successful and he was a devoted father - and storyteller - to four sons. The family moved west to South Dakota, then to Chicago, where Frank began to create 'original, modern American fairy tales'. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz appeared in 1900 and soon 'Everyone wanted to journey to Oz.'

The Road to Oz is a fascinating, beautifully illustrated account of the type of person - and the long and twisting road - it takes to create such a richly imagined and beloved classic as Dorothy's adventure. I especially enjoyed seeing where some of the influences on the Oz story appeared in its creator's own life and highly recommend this picture book bio to readers of all ages.

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