L. Frank Baum never imagined the impact The Wonderful Wizard of Oz would have on children’s writing or the appeal the book would have to generations of readers. Although he wrote numerous books, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is easily his most enduring. Baum wanted to write a fairy tale that was American, not European, although he introduced elements of traditional European fairy tales (witches, castles, forests) into the story. By presenting a female protagonist, casual language, characters such as the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, and settings such as Kansas, Baum created a new approach to children’s writing that is distinctly American.
Before The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, children’s books were stilted morality tales designed to instruct or to frighten readers into behaving properly. Baum, however, presented a thrilling adventure from a child’s point of view, showing the child’s ability to solve her own problems and return to the security of her home.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz received praise from critics and readers alike. Critics applauded Baum’s simple storytelling, his message, and his imaginative, believable characters. Readers fell in love with the wonders of Oz and demanded more books about this enchanted land. Although the book did not win any awards during Baum’s lifetime, it was given the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1968.