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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


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 que

While I do realise that in particular Carl Sandburg's lyrical output is much beloved by many, I do have to admit that his poetry (ever since I was introduced to it in grade nine English) has never really all that much appealed to me. Yes, I can definitely appreciate Carl Sandburg's literary talents,

Somehow I got through my schooling without ever reading Carl Sandburg. Since he’s from my home town and 1/2 the town is named after him this is quite a feat. Decided to pick this up for my reading challenge- a book of short stories.

Dude, this is crazy stuff. Some of it is a little silly like Dr. Se

Though the names were unique and there was an occasionally striking image, overall I didn't much care for these short stories. They often relied on verbatim repetition of long phrases, and there was little plot or character development in any of them. There wasn't much of a lesson or take-away eithe

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 big-

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. I

Not having been exposed to these stories earlier in my life, I was surprised when I found out that Carl Sandburg wrote children's stories. While I strongly wanted to like these stories I found their absurdity off-putting. I love fantasy so I can't understand my reaction. I realize the word play woul

"Tell me about it," said Any Ice Today.

"It is simple. If a blind man plays an accordion on the street to make people cry it makes them sad and when they are sad the gold goes away off the accordion. And if a blind man goes to sleep because his music is full of sleepy songs like the long wind in a sl

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. I t

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