Story Behind the Story #11:
Who Stole the Wizard of Oz?

Lots of people are fascinated by maps. I knew a serious book collector who built a large library of books which specifically had maps in them. For example, Treasure Island, famously, has a map in it. Indeed, it’s said that Stevenson drew the map for his step-son first, and then wrote the book.

Atlas of FantasyI too like maps and so, back in the day when I working as a librarian, I was intrigued when a new atlas came into the reference collection. Moreover to my great delight it was an atlas of fantasy lands. A wonderfully clever idea, it was such fun to see maps of, not just Treasure Island, but the lands of Oz, the Thousand-acre Woods, and so on. Much fun.

As I was going through the book I realized an important map was missing: the chessboard from Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll. That was the beginning of my thinking of the book which became Who Stole the Wizard of Oz?

Through the Looking Glass

Who Stole the Wizard of Oz?My notion was to write a mystery in which the essential clues were to be found in the maps of well-known children’s books—books which had been stolen from the Checkertown, Ohio Library. When an innocent Becky has been accused of stealing the books, she and her twin brother, Toby, need to track down the real thief, and find a hidden treasure, using the maps as essential clues. (Hint: a checkerboard and a chessboard are identical.) And, if it brought my readers to The Wind in the Willows, Winnie-the-Pooh, the Oz books, Treasure Island, and Through the Looking Glass, better yet.

In short, Who Stole the Wizard of Oz? is a book about books brought into my head by yet another book. That’s what happens when the writer is also a librarian.

A map to explore new worlds

Treasure Island, 1883

Treasure Island, 1883

Like many readers, maps in books have always fascinated me. I once knew someone who collected books only with such maps. One of the most famous maps, the treasure map found in Stevenson’s Treasure Island, was drawn first, and the story written around it. One of my own early books, Who Stole the Wizard of Oz?, a mystery, has, as its primary clues, maps from well-known childrens’ books, The Wizard of Oz, Winnie The Pooh, Treasure Island, Through the Looking Glass, and The Wind in the Willows. My book was inspired when I came upon an atlas of fantasylands. What a book by which to travel! This comes to mind because my forthcoming book, Sophia’s War, will have not just one map, but two. Such maps not only illuminate the story, but seem to give a singular sense of reality to a narrative. In a very special and literal way, maps provide a way of following a story. Or perhaps the best stories follow a map to explore new worlds.