(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Baum was obviously indebted to the eccentric English genius Lewis Carroll (pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1871). In Victorian times it was generally believed that books for children should lean heavily on moral instruction. The authors of juvenile literature often intruded into their own stories to point out the moral lessons the stories supposedly illustrated. Carroll believed that children were given too much moral indoctrination and were not allowed to be children. His books about Alice parodied sententious, sanctimonious adults, and he proclaimed that good books should be full of pictures and should be fun to read.

Baum offered a further innovation by combining the traditional elements of fairy tales, such as witches and wizards, with familiar things such as scarecrows and cornfields. He is credited with teaching children to find magic in the ordinary things surrounding them in their daily lives. Although Baum may not have offered much in the way of moral instruction in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or its sequels, he accomplished something more important: He taught millions of children to love reading during their crucial formative years.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was such a phenomenal success that Baum was called upon to produce numerous sequels. After his death in 1919, his publishers commissioned Ruth Plumly Thompson to continue writing sequels. Baum’s original Oz book, his thirteen sequels, and the twenty-one sequels written by Thompson comprise the history of an enchanted land that children continue to discover with the feeling that they have gained possession of something as marvelous as Aladdin’s lamp.