Rootabaga Stories

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Rootabaga Stories

by Carl Sandburg

illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham

Age: 5+

Interests: folk tales, history, poetry, language

Harcourt Inc.: 1922

176 pp – 25 stories

Next: sequel Rootabaga Pigeons (1923; sometimes published in an omnibus with Rootabaga Stories), More Rootabaga Stories (1993; previously unpublished tales); Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and sequels for more American-style fairy tales

Also by these illustrators: The Rooster Crows, An American ABC

An assortment of wildly fantastic fairy tales in a thoroughly American style, set firmly in the era of trains, skyscrapers and industry. These stories have all the whimsy and freewheeling nature of a folk tale… no, they’re actually more freewheeling and far weirder than any folk tale. While it resists all attempts to pin meaning to its crazy plots, this book nevertheless charms and enchants with the sheer power of its language.

Any time anyone entertains the thought that writing stories for children is an easy lark of a task, I would love to plunk this book in their lap as an example of what happens when a writer of formidable talent devotes himself to the serious work of writing very unserious stories for his children. Even when the character names and plots seem totally random, they still reverberate with the echo of other things, with the Aaron Copland strains of a robust, forward-looking America that’s now a distant memory. A quick glimpse at a few titles will show you what I mean:

The Potato Face Blind Man Who Lost the Diamond Rabbit on His Gold Accordion
How Gimme the Ax Found Out About the Zigzag Railroad and Who Made It Zigzag
The Story of Blixie Blimber and the Power of the Gold Buckskin Whincher
The Story of Jason Squiff and Why He Had a Popcorn Hat, Popcorn Mittens and Popcorn Shoes
The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was in It
How Bimbo the Snip’s Thumb Stuck to His Nose When the Wind Changed
The Two Skyscrapers Who Decided to Have a Child
What Six Girls with Balloons Told the Gray Man on Horseback

For the sheer love of language and poetry, as well as high-jumping foolishness and moments of great poignance, this is a joyous read (especially aloud). And the illustrations by Maud and Miska Petersham are lovely too – see below.

(available at amazon.com)

(click here for a free online version, complete with Petersham illustrations)

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.