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The Real Wizard of Oz: The Life and Times of L. Frank Baum

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  332 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
In the first major literary biography of L. Frank Baum, Rebecca Loncraine tells the story of Oz as you've never heard it, with a look behind the curtain at the vivid life and eccentric imagination of its creator.

L. Frank Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1899 and it was first published in 1900. A runaway hit, it was soon recognized as America's first modern fairy t
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 20th 2009 by Gotham (first published August 1st 2009)
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Dec 03, 2013 Carmine rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult, biographies
I am really struggling to get through this one. Lately I have had a rash of bad biographies. I loath biographers who either conjecture too much, insert themselves into the bio, or try to create meaning and connection where it may or may not have existed. Frank Baum's house at age 12 was next to a road paved with wood was poplar..poplar is yellowish when fresh must be the yellow brick road! (except the road had already been there for decaded before Baum and probably would ha ...more
May 08, 2013 Ashley rated it liked it
I wanted to love this book. It was on the shelf at the library, and I just grabbed it on a whim. It was an interesting read, for sure, but there were a couple of glaring problems with it that continued to make me roll my eyes and sigh.

The main problem was that the author perpetually made assumptions about the subject, L. Frank Baum. She specially did so during the first half of the book, which covered years that were probably - understandably - difficult to find material about. But this is suppo
Jason Pettus
Apr 20, 2010 Jason Pettus rated it liked it
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

I'm sure there's a fascinating biography to eventually be written about L. Frank Baum, author of the Oz series of children's books, because Baum was a fascinating guy -- a failed theatre veteran from the dawn of Broadway-style musicals, he cycled through a whole series of typical late-1800s entrepreneuria
Mar 23, 2016 Kailey rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was too long-winded for me, and every little thing seemed to be drawn out unnecessarily. Some bits about Baum's history and his writing career were interesting, but mostly I skimmed a lot of a descriptive passages. There was a lot about the history of the times that had nothing to do with Baum, but I guess it was nice to see the historic events and trends that shaped his world. It just made the book longer though.

I wasn't particularly impressed with Baum as a person. He seems to have b
Christopher Obert
Feb 23, 2013 Christopher Obert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
This book is the biography of Wizard of Oz creator, L. Frank Baum. I very much enjoyed this book. I found Baum’s life extremely thought-provoking and as I read the book I found that I was routing him on! The book is enhanced by eight pages of photos (I wish there were more) that added a personal glimpse into Baum’s biography.

I have read that some of the book’s other reviewers did not like how much of the book was devoted to what was happening around Baum, i.e. thoughts and customs of the time i
Chris Aylott
Dec 03, 2010 Chris Aylott rated it liked it
More times than life, Loncraine's biography of L. Frank Baum is limited by the amount of information on his daily life. She is often reduced to supposition, claiming that he "would" have done this or seen that when there is apparently no record to confirm that he did. His creativity, his social conscience, and his poor business sense survive in the public record, but there doesn't seem to be much reliable record of his private life.

What Loncraine does well, however, is depict the world and place
Carl Rollyson
Jul 24, 2012 Carl Rollyson rated it it was amazing
This diligently researched and gracefully written biography provides a comprehensive account of the man who created what Rebecca Loncraine calls, America's modern fairy tale. She creates an exquisite portrait of the period between the mid-1800s and the first two decades of the 20th century. Baum's first Oz book (he went on to write thirteen sequels) reflected his experience in New York State's Finger Lakes region, the Great Plains, and other parts of the Midwest. He understood on the night he co ...more
Feb 13, 2010 Jeremy rated it liked it
This is a mostly interesting, comprehensive biography of L. Frank Baum that sometimes reads like a history thesis. Baum's early life is not well-documented, so the author tends to make statements like "He must have felt like..." or "one can only imagine that..." in places where the facts run thin. Still, the book seems to parallel Baum's legacy in an interesting way. To this point, much of what I "knew" about Baum was based on a made-for-TV movie from 1990 (starring John Ritter as Baum). If this ...more
Terri M.
Nov 18, 2009 Terri M. rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of Oz
I don't often ready biographies, but I have had a lifelong love affair with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and after finally seeing Wicked on stage, I had to know more about the man that birthed Oz.

The writing was choppy and seemed forced which seemed to mirror Baum's haphazard life and career--moving from place to place never quite finding his equilibrium until he start writing and publishing his children's books. After reaching the end of the book, the final chapter or epilogue was probably the be
Christine Turner
Aug 01, 2016 Christine Turner marked it as to-read
Shelves: biography
NOTE: 329 p

Enchanting generations of fans, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, first published in 1900, was written by a man whose life was nearly as adventurous as his heroine's legendary trip. Ambitious and drawn to the unconventional, L. Frank Baum was at the forefront of moving picture technology, championed women's rights and immersed himself in the occult. Loncraine's unique celebration of Baum's life explores the eventful times in which Baum lived, which influenced nearly every aspect of the Oz t
May 06, 2016 Lisa-Michele rated it really liked it
A great read about one of my favorite stories ever – a story within a story within a story. This biography of L. Frank Baum weaves his love of the mystical, his strange political beliefs, and his hardscrabble upbringing into how he created his literary masterpiece. I enjoyed the unabashed point of view the author took: Baum had trouble distinguishing between imagination and real life. I don’t know if I believe this point of view, but it made for a fascinating read.

I love the Oz story so much th
Apr 01, 2011 Gina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Stunt, dwarf, or destroy the imagination of a child and you have taken away its chances of success in life. Imagination transforms the commonplace into the great and creates the new out of the old." - L. Frank Baum

I LOVED this book. I love anything "Wizard of Oz." The author gave me a great insight into the life and mind of L. Frank Baum. I think she did a great job with this book.
Sep 09, 2015 John rated it liked it
Well, no, this biography doesn't soar, but it does a decent workwoman-like job of laying out the details of Baum's life. i think the speculation that the author engages in is fair enough. one doesn't have to take it all as Gospel. next time i'm up near Rochester, i'll go to the Baum Museum in Chittenango. be sure to check out the Falls while you're out that way. as far as the plank road not being yellow, planks on boardwalks are frequently replaced, and contrast between the old wood and the new ...more
Jan 21, 2010 Christian rated it did not like it
Only read to chapter 4 then stopped. Really wanted to like this book because of it's subject matter but couldn't continue reading it, author's style was to erratic.

If anyone can suggest another biography on Baum please let me know.
Kind of reads like a book report at times and makes a lot of assumptions, but still good.
May 17, 2016 Jeff rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of L. Frank Baum, Wizard of Oz, and creative minds
Shelves: biography
In depth biography (perhaps too much at times--often it strays into extended narratives about situations not directly connected to the beloved Baum; in fact, too often no such connection is ever even attempted) that covers pre- to post-L. Frank. When it stays on target, the reader can really get a good sense of the amazing (and often dark) mind of this very imaginative author (so many of the ideas he came up with were jaw-dropping in their ingenuity). Too long, but if you can muddle through the ...more
Dec 24, 2015 Sarah rated it liked it
A few books have been written on L. Frank Baum in the past. Most of them assume some familiarity with his life and work, with the authors perhaps recognizing that much of their reading audience will be fans of the Oz series. This book is the first I've seen in the celebrity biography vein, attempting to appeal to the casual reader by couching Baum's life in his culture and times. That it is a populist book is pretty much apparent from the cover: it's designed to catch your eye and tweak some fam ...more
Mel Foster
Mar 14, 2015 Mel Foster rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
L. Frank Baum, most well-known for his Oz books, was an innovator and visionary worth a biographer's attention. Among his interests and accomplishments, Baum's 1908 Fairylogue and Radio-Plays was the first motion picture program with its own musical score. Remarkably, he did not write his first Oz book until he was in his 40s. An advocate of women's suffrage and Spiritualism, Baum's many interests and his restlessness led him from Upstate New York to Dakota Territory, Chicago, and Hollywood, Cal ...more
Tammy Dotts
Almost everyone in the United States knows the story of the Wizard of Oz. Whether you’re familiar with it from TV reruns of the 1939 MGM classic or from reading the books, chances are you’re well acquainted with Dorothy and her quest to follow the Yellow Brick Road.

What you may not know is that like Dorothy, her creator, L. Frank Baum, experienced a tornado when he was young. Or that Baum’s interest in spiritualism informed his creation of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion.

In his
Mar 13, 2013 Louise rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, writers
This book tells the story of the creator of the beloved tales of Oz. Author Rebecca Loncraine feels the geographical places and the historical times where and when L. Frank Baum lived informed his writing and most specifically influenced this most famous work "The Wizard of Oz". For instance, she describes how his life in North Dakota parallels the dull drab plain that Dorothy leaves for the colorful world of Oz. She shows how the influence the suffrage movement influenced his use of female char ...more
May 22, 2015 Erin rated it liked it
It was a bit difficult to get into - it's all over the place, making me want to yell at the author "please just focus on one thing at a time!" It gets better after the first chapter. This book is also rather fanciful for a biography, full of descriptions of sounds, smells, etc., and imagining what was going on in people's heads. (The author is also a creative writing teacher. I guess that explains it.). Overall, an interesting book.
Daniel Ziegelbauer
Jan 05, 2015 Daniel Ziegelbauer rated it really liked it
This is a very well researched and thoughtful work by the author. In fact the emphasis is certainly on the times surrounding the subject so the tedious progression of the material may turn some off. It begins slow but hang in there, it ends strong and the full context ends up giving life to the subject with a new found appreciation for his work and character that still lives on today.
Torey Weiler
Mar 02, 2016 Torey Weiler rated it did not like it
It was a struggle for me to make it all the way through this book. The author spent a lot of time speculating, and telling you that she was assuming those events happened. If you took out all the author's speculation and just left the facts this book would be 1/3 the length.
Aug 31, 2015 Trailhoundz rated it liked it
Nice biography, but way too long. It was only the last section that focused on Baum's writing. I think the author could have condensed a hundred pages or so and it would have been better.
Steve Shilstone
May 03, 2014 Steve Shilstone rated it really liked it
Life and times of L., with plenty of emphasis on times, helpful in placing the man as he plugged along through existence in a varied and rapidly changing world.
Aug 24, 2011 Neil rated it it was ok
A biography almost saved by the subject, but not quite. The first half of this biography is awful, if it hadn't been for the fact that it was bought for me as a present I don't think I'd have stuck with it. However when we finally get to the interesting part of Baum's life i.e. when he starts writing books it improves considerably. A good biography should make all of the subjects life interesting and not just the parts for which they are famous. The author spends far too much time hammering home ...more
Bruce Deming
May 25, 2013 Bruce Deming rated it really liked it
Interesting book. So many curious coincidences of firsts occur, whether important or not you may judge, but L Frank Baum's first published book Mother Goose Rhymes in Prose, Illustrated by Maxfield Parrish as HIS first published Illustrations in a book and the publisher lived or owned the first house built by Frank Lloyd Wright, then later the Wizard of Oz movie classic I believe was the first to introduce color.

Interesting tidbits for such a well loved author and story and I think I have seen t
Though this was ponderous in parts, I enjoyed the book. I have been an OZ fan for years but never realized how many stories he wrote. Historical background for his stories made this an interesting book, though I don't know how my book club will feel about it.
Mark Muckerman
Nov 22, 2013 Mark Muckerman rated it liked it
In my head I had crafted and drafted a fair, balanced and thorough review. Then I read everyone else's reviews.

So, I shall take the easy path: Just read every other 3 star review and I agree with them all:

Decent book. More of a "biographical story" than a true and critically researched biography (but forgivable). A fair bit of author-generated prose to fill in gaps in the history and to shape the biography into more of a story (but forgivable). A fair effort and a decent read to impart knowledge
Aug 19, 2016 Jo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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