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Munchkins, Gillikins, and
Suzanne Rahn head over the rainbow to the Land of Oz
By Nancy Covert
Somewhere over the rainbow, Munchkins, Quadlings, Hammerheads, Gillikins
and others will be heading for the centennial celebration of L. Frank
Baum's children's classic, "The Wizard of Oz." Among the guest
speakers at the summer 2000 celebration, sponsored by the International
Wizard of Oz Club in Bloomington, Ind., will be Suzanne Rahn, professor
of English and director of PLU's Children's Literature Program.
Her recently published book, "The Wizard of Oz: Shaping an Imaginary
World" (Twayne), explores the continuing appeal of this classic-one
of the best known and best loved stories ever written, and the basis
of one of the most viewed movies in history.
Hers is the first book-length study that probes Baum's creative process
and the literary, historical and political forces that influenced him.
She currently is compiling a book of analytical essays on the subject,
scheduled to be published this year by Scarecrow Press.
Baum's Oz, the first fully developed, imaginary world ever conceived
by an American author, has fascinated generations of people. The source
of its appeal? Author Rahn explores this attraction and notes how the
fantasy world reflects the utopian ideals of the era it was published
in and looks forward to the New Urbanism, multi-culturalism, and even
contemporary day theme parks.
Baum's Oz series became not only the most popular fantasy series in
the history of children's literature but the most controversial, as
well. In her critical history of Baum's first novel and its 33 sequels,
Rahn cites the defenders of Oz, including writers such as James Thurber
and Ray Bradbury. Later pieces by writers such as Gore Vidal and Salman
Rushdie provide a wide variety of critical perspectives on the classic
Also included are comparisons between the book and the MGM film-which,
Rahn suggests, not only diminishes Dorothy's power but, paradoxically,
expresses a fundamental distrust of the imagination.
The book's final section for teachers offers a variety of suggestions,
both creative and practical, for using the film and the novel in the
classroom, from discussion topics and mapping activities to a curriculum
about imaginary worlds, and includes an annotated bibliography.
Rahn also is author and editor of other books and journals on children's
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