Sunday, November 14, 2010

Module 12: The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum by Kathleen Krull, Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

The Road to Oz follows the life of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum. Baum is born into a wealthy family, but struggles to find his place in life. To support his wife and four children Baum tries acting, sales and eventually begins to work in the newspaper industry. As Baum raised his children, he became known for inventing compelling stories for them. He eventually decides to turn his passion for storytelling into a book for children. He writes The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the bestselling children’s book.

As I was reading this book I knew Baum would eventually write The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Still, Kathleen Krull manages to create a wonderful sense of suspense. I kept thinking, “Will he get his life together so he can write the book already?” I think that beloved authors like Baum can be immortalized because of their works. This book shows his humanity as he struggles to find a vocation and support his family. Many artistic and literary greats are charged with a long road to success. This book uses Baum to illustrate the merits in continuously striving to do something you love. At the same time Krull shows the reader how Baum’s struggle affected his wife and family. Kevin Hawkes’s use of acrylic paint creates a vibrant picture that captures the Victorian setting beautifully. The characters on each page have life and motion which helped to keep me engaged in the story. The Road to Oz is a great read for anyone who loves The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or the film it inspired, The Wizard of Oz.

Review: Library Media Connection
Once upon a time, there was no Dorothy from Kansas and her little dog, Toto. There was no tornado that whirled them to a magic world named Oz--Someone had to make it all up.’ Author Kathleen Krull skillfully tells young readers precisely how an interesting man named Frank L. Baum did so. Through vivid anecdotes and strong research, Baum comes to life as not only the author of these beloved stories, but also as a human, who failed time and time again in a variety of pursuits. Persistence and heart are characteristics of Baum that shine through thanks to Krull. Kevin Hawkes’s skillful illustrations add much to the text, making this biography a delicious visual feast.

Review: Kirkus Review
With customary vivacity and a fine sense of irony, Krull portrays her subject as a genial family man who suffered reverse after reverse thanks to a bad combination of deep-seated optimism and zero business sense--but pulled through when his love of storytelling and sense of audience at last led to a novel that instantly became (she notes) the Harry Potter of its day. She does mention Baum's anti-American Indian screeds, but in general tells a brisk, admiring tale that mirrors the tone of his talespinning--aptly illustrated by Hawkes's scenes of a frail, dapper looking gent, generally sporting a smile beneath a bushy mustache and gazing abstractedly into the distance. An admirable companion to Krull's Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up To Become Dr. Seuss (2004), this profile not only provides a similarly illuminating peek beneath the authorial curtain, but leaves readers understanding just how groundbreaking The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was, as an adventure story with both a female protagonist and no overwhelming Moral Lesson.

Suggested Activities
I would include The Road to Oz in an Oz reading list. After reading each selection on the list, readers would be rewarded with a ticket to a screening of The Wizard of Oz complete with candy and popcorn.

Krull, K. (2008) The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum. New York: Alfred A. Knopf ISBN: 0375832165.

Coleman, J. (2008, November) [Review of the book The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum by Kathleen Krull] Library Media Connection, 27(3), 83-84.

[Review of the book The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum by Kathleen Krull] Kirkus Reviews, 76(15), 230-230.

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