Authors We Love: Lyman Frank Baum

Baum’s first novel as a novelist was Mother Goose in Prose (1897). The book is based on a story he told his own children and introduces Dorothy, the farm girl, in the final chapter. In the introduction to the book, he says his aim was to create modern fairy tales that would not scare children as the Brothers Grimm did. In 1899, his collection of stories, Father Goose: His Book, was published, and it quickly became a bestseller. One evening, while he was telling his sons a story, he had an idea he had never had before.

While trying to calm them down, he grabbed a scrap of paper he could write on and excitedly wrote it down. This is a story about the Emerald City, and is the original idea of the Oz adventure story. The book, illustrated and covered by W. W. Denslow, was published at Baum’s private expense in 1900 and sold 90,000 copies in the first two years. Within a short time of the publication of the The Wonderful Wizard of OZ, the author had received thousands of letters from young readers asking him to keep the story going.

Baum did, at the reader’s request, write a series of fairy tales based on his fictional “Oz,” such as “The Emerald City of Oz,” “The Tin Woodman of Oz,” and “The Hungry Tiger of Oz.” He has written 14 fairy tales in this series. It does not include a collection of short stories from the The Marvelous Land of Oz Illustrated, published in 1914, or 10 other quasi-Oz-fairy tales that are intimately connected with the people of the land of Oz. In 1901, the first of the Oz series was adapted into a musical, with Baum helping to write the screenplay and lyrics.

In 1914, Baum was on the set of The Patchwork Girl of Oz. In the same year, he founded The Oz Film Manufacturing Company in Los Angeles (later renamed The Features Film Company), where he also directed films from 1914 to 1915. The well-equipped studio on Santa Monica Boulevard sits on seven acres. But the company went out of business and produced only two films about Oz, His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz  and The Magic Cloak of Oz. In the years since, however, the story of the O.Z. has been brought to the screen many times. The Wizard of Oz, played by 16-year-old Judy Garland in 1939, was nominated for an Oscar for best picture.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

David Copperfield (Charles Dickens collection) - Kindle edition by Dickens,  Charles . Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

The artistic charm of David Copperfield lies not in its winding and vivid structure, or its ups and downs of plots, but in its realistic life atmosphere and lyrical narrative style. What attracts people in this work are the fleshy characters, the specific and vivid world and customs, as well as the personality characteristics of different characters. Such as Miss Bessie, David’s aunt, in her manners and speech, her dress, her likes and dislikes, and even her actions, though not without exaggeration, paint a vivid picture of an old woman with a strange nature and a kind heart.

As for the portrayal of Peggotty, the maid, this is even more accurate. The setting, especially the storm at Yarmouth, is powerful, vivid and immersive. Dickens was also a master humorist, whose witty one-liners and exaggerated caricature of characters can often be found between the lines of his novels. The chapters of David’s early life show a childhood world that has long been forgotten by adults from a child’s psychological perspective, and are vividly and movingly written. David, for example, has a special childhood sensitivity towards the cruel, cruel and greedy businessman Murdstone who pursues his mother from the beginning.

When Murdstone reached out his false hand and patted David, he saw that it had touched his mother’s unceremoniously, and angrily pushed it away. David repeated to his mother the time when Murdstone had taken him out to play. When he said that one of Murdstone’s friends kept mentioning a beautiful little widow in their conversation, she laughed and asked him to repeat the story again and again. It is told entirely from the point of view of the innocent child, who does not know that it is his mother who is being told, and the young widow, who asks for a reunion, whose fervent hopes for a happy life are already on the page.

David went to her brother’s house with his nurse, Peggotty, whose brother was a fisherman. David saw him coming back from his work at sea to wash his face and thought he had something in common with shrimp and crab, for his black face turned red when the hot water burned it. This strange association is full of childlike interest and Dickens’s characteristic humor. In David Copperfield, Dickens resorts to the cartoonist exaggeration and transformation techniques, with simple language humor to create lifelike characters, leaving us with an unforgettable impression. These cartoon characters fully demonstrate the artistic charm of Dickens’s novels.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Expéry

The Little Prince, known as Le Petit Prince in France, is a best-selling novella by French aristocrat and writer Antoine de Saint Expéry. The narrator, a pilot who crashes in the Sahara Desert, is repairing his plane as he is approached by a young boy, the little prince. The prince claims to come from an small asteroid, where he lives with a rose that he loves dearly, and the little prince wants to explore the universe..

The prince first asks the pilot to draw him a sheep, but the pilot is not able to draw a satisfactory sheep for the prince, so he merely draws a box and tells the prince that the sheep he desires is hidden inside. Over the course of a week, while the pilot fixes his plane, the little prince recounts his interesting life story. The prince says he has visited six planets on his journey, which each housed one person: a king, narcissist, alcoholic, businessman, lamplighter, and finally, the last planet had a geographer. The prince also tames a fox, which teaches him that important things can only be seen with one’s heart, not one’s eyes. The book has quite an interesting end: the prince supposedly commits suicide by letting a snake bite him, but claims that he is returning home to his asteroid. The prince finally tells the narrator that it will look like he has died, for his body is too heavy to bring with him. However, the next day, the pilot is unable to locate the little prince’s body.

Ultimately, The Little Prince is a very interesting and touching story with deep lessons behind it. The six people the prince met on the planets each represent a different negative aspect of society, and the reader is left to conclude whether the prince returned home to his rose or died. The Little Prince can be enjoyed by all people of all ages, and it has a different meaning and interpretation for everyone.

-Josh N.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Expéry  is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Image result for city of emberLina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow live in the city of Ember.  A city underground, but they can still live normally as a human. Lina lives with her grandmother and her little sister Poppy, and Doon lives with his father, who is an inventor.

But political corruption seems to enshroud the city of ember by inserting a rapacious mayor in them. He was a fat guy who stored all the delicious food such as canned peaches, meat, and sweets. While his citizens only eat squash and vegetable soup. Corns could be a very luxury type of food and can be eaten only during festivals.

I thought that this book has such an amazing setting and the adventure that Lina and Doon planned to save their city of very exhilarating to me. I cried so much when Lina’s grandma passed away, that means all the burdens are on Lina’s shoulder. And that also makes me glad for living above the ground in a cozy house with my family.

-April L

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive