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L. Frank Baum's classic children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900 and was an immediate smash hit. If you've at least seen the musical you know the story: a young girl named Dorothy is swept away from her Kansas farm by a tornado and is plopped down in a fantastical land of wonder. This novel stands on its own as a brilliant work of American literature whose characters, unlike many European counterparts, don't come from any ancient legends, but were simply made up: talking animals, good and wicked witches, and of course, the wonderful Wizard himself!
L. Frank Baum's book was so successful that a 1902 Broadway musical was adapted from it, and he was encouraged (begged! implored!) by his young readers (his "loving tyrants") to write thirteen more Oz books, whether he liked it or not. You'll fall in love with this tale, and have much more to carry you on through Oz when you're done.