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Rootabaga Stories

Carl Sandburg

Book Overview: 

Carl Sandburg is beloved by generations of children for his Rootabaga Stories and Rootabaga Pigeons, a series of whimsical, sometimes melancholy stories he originally created for his own daughters. The Rootabaga Stories were born of Sandburg’s desire for “American fairy tales” to match American childhood. He felt that the European stories involving royalty and knights were inappropriate, and so populated his stories with animals, skyscrapers, trains, corn fairies, and other colorful characters.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Gimme the Ax lived in a house where everything is the same as it always was. “The chimney sits on top of the house and lets the smoke out,” said Gimme the Ax. “The doorknobs open the doors. The windows are always either open or shut. We are always either upstairs or downstairs in this house. Everything is the same as it always was.” So he decided to let his children name themselves. 4 “The first words they speak as soon as they learn to make words shall be their names,” he said. “They shall name themselves.” When the first boy came to the house of Gimme the Ax, he was named Please Gimme. When the first girl came she was named Ax Me No Questions.. . . Read More

Community Reviews

This is a very odd collection of short stories. The narratives are very fluid, but nonsensical, and while the words tripped off my tongue very easily, half the time I had no idea what the point of the story was or what the author was talking about. Our oldest loved it. Our youngest hated it. And...more

I read this several times as a child and am currently re-reading it. There's a lot of invention here, on occasions it gets contrived and perhaps a bit precious, but when Sandburg is in full flow the words are like nonsensical music- the overall effect being more important than the narrative.

My ch...more

AMERICAN FAIRY TALES

Carl Sandburg, winner of Pulitzer Prizes both for his biography of Abraham Lincoln and for his COMPLETE POEMS, explores another genre in ROOTABAGA STORIES, fairy tales that he wrote for his daughters. When asked how he wrote the stories, Sandburg replied, "The children asked...more

My dad used to read this book to us when we were little-he would be so animated when he read it that we really could picture all of the crazy things in this book as if they were reality.

I found it in my hope chest the other day and had almost forgotten about its existence.

Isn't it delightful to find an established poet or author who also wrote delightful kids' stories? T.S. Eliot was one, of course (Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats), and had I not moved to the Midwest as a young adult, I'm not sure I'd ever have learned of these wonderful Rootabaga Stories by b...more

Carl Sandburg's ROOTABAGA STORIES remain unique in American Literature. I regard the best ones as prose poetry and as among my own favorite Sandburg poems.

My own personal favorites:

The Two Skyscrapers Who Decided to Have a Child
This is the most beautiful and touching of all the Rootabaga Stories...more

If I was in charge, I would make everyone read these stories. Since I am not in charge, I can only suggest that everyone read them :-)

Here I am in my 60s, an English major in college, and I don't recall ever having heard of the Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg. As with most of my children's books I am sharing this one with a 7 1/2 year old. She is most enthusiastic about this book. Maybe I will understand why by the time we g...more

Apparently Sandberg wrote these to be American fairy tales, feeling that traditional fairy tales from Europe had too many references to things we don't have here (such as royalty). In that aim, he only partially succeeded -- these are very nice childern's stories but overall they don't resonate....more

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