Rootabaga Stories
Carl Sandburg
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Rootabaga Stories

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  329 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Joyous, humorous, poetic, and always uniquely American, Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories are an important part of our children's literary legacy. In inimitable prose, Sandburg created Rootabaga Country-where the railroad tracks go from straight to zigzag, where the pigs have bibs on, and where the Village of Cream Puffs floats in the wind-and populated it with baby balloo...more
Hardcover, 0 pages
Published May 4th 1974 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P (first published 1922)
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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 questions, and I answered them."

The ROOTABAGA STORIES are unconventional in almost every way. Unlike traditional fairy tales, they have no perfect princesses and evil witches. They are American fairy tal...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 childhood's favorite bit: "Hat Ashes Shovel" - when you need a Hat you make it from Hat Ashes, and to work with them you need the Hat Ashes Shovel. The term made me laugh.
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 :-)
Jan 20, 2014 Meliza rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Meliza by: 1001 Books for Every Mood (To Revel in Wit)
This book is made up of short stories that are funny but bizarre. The notable aspects are the images in each story, the repetitive way the stories are told and the invention of words by the author.

I found it stressful to read the stories, because it was kinda difficult to understand them. I was thinking, these are supposed to be children's stories, right? But then, I realized, stories like these are not meant to be analyzed. This should be enjoyed as it is, silly but imaginative, as befits a chi...more
This is a set of stories that belongs on every "read aloud" shelf, right next to all the Dr. Suess books and the Brothers Grimm and all those Little Golden Book collections. Sandburg's prose begs to be heard - reading it to yourself is loses the rhythm and alliteration and all those other poetry tricks that he was a master of. Sandberg wrote these for his children, wanting them to have fairy tales that related to their very American upbringing, and these stories do ring with commerce and expansi...more
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 either. They seemed to be more about creative character and place names than anything else. Each group of stories was prefaced by a list of characters that appeared in the stories (Ax Me No Questions, Wing...more
Mackenzi a weird book.
An acquired taste, this is a collection of utterly bizarre and very imaginative short stories set in rural America. The poetic language is evocative of a prairie farmer of 1900, which is to say it is a completely different rhythm and chock full of repeated expressions. Depending on your perspective, either the prose is unreadable and the plots are mostly non-existent; or the prose is melodic and stretches the language, coloring an astounding variety of sketches. I lean toward the latter. Read al...more
Larry Bassett
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 get to the end. It is clearly a book that must be read out loud. I would say it makes no sense but then there is probably a lot in life like that for a youngster.
It's better than Sandburg's poetry. It's a little weird though. It's like, well, like Woody Guthrie or some other folk singer of that era made up nonsense tales.

There were lots of truly odd names of characters like Gimme the Ax and Eeta Peeca Pie. Lots of made up words, too. And yet, it sort of works, and moves along, so you slide over the weirdness.

Elizabeth Olson
Poet and collector of folk tales Carl Sandburg's own turn at then newly-created (1922) American tales, with a distinctly Midwest flavor. The stories all have the belief-building cadence of a tale from a real world, even while the reader suspends disbelief, although some are more satisfying as modern myth than others.
I can't remember whether or not I finished this book. I'm pretty sure that I did, but months have passed. I just found the stories really boring. I know that a lot of people go on about this book about how imaginative it is, but I could never get past how silly the stories were. Didn't find this amusing at all.
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.
The formatting on this book was very poor. This book is a series of stories that Carl Sandburg told his children. I am afraid that because of changing times, children now might not think these stories were as enchanting as they once were.
These stories remind me of Gertrude Stein... which is never a good thing. The only thing that kept me enjoying the stories was the fact that I didn't have to analyze them too deeply. I could just read them for face value.
Michael Jay
My wife Aundreta suggested it to me - a favorite of hers. Synchronizing what I like in my pleasure reading with what I like in my study. Fanciful and imaginative, it is making for a good journey so far. (15 Jun 2011)
I read these as a child and remembered them yesterday as I was writing my May newsletter with an article about teachers' favorite summer reading books. I have such good memories. I want to go back...
Charlie Byers
This is one of my very favorite pieces of children's lit. Sandburg's language is magical, and if you have any connection to American prairie country, it's guaranteed to make you homesick. One for the ages.
I've never forgotten the drawings and stories in this book. The characters were so perfectly absurd; they made sense to me as a child. I was thrilled to find a copy at a book sale.
Petya Kokudeva
Абсолютно лудият, най-обичният ми: Карл Сандбърг! В разкошен превод на Петко Бочаров и със суперските рисунки на Румен Статков. Българското издание заслужава да седи до останалите.
Claire S
I just love these. Actually heard them more then read them - grew up listening to an album my parents gave me of him reading his stories. So imaginative and rich. Very luscious!
James Govednik
Interesting as an example of children's literture of the 1920s. A couple of my favorites: The Story of Jason Squiff and The White Cloud Girl and the Blue Horse Boy.
Mar 28, 2011 Louise rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Louise by: jonathan gold
When a Pulitzer Prize winner personally recommends that you read a book, you'd better heed it.

Fantastical, lyrical, and poetic. I wish I had read these as a child.
one of my all time favorite books from childhood and on. i love reading it now with my own almost six year old daughter. this has been a formative influence for me...
I honestly can't describe this book. Except that it's a children's book by great american poet, and that one of the character's names is "Gimme the Axe"....
The foxes and flongboos making their train jump the tracks at the horseshoe curve in Altoona might just be my favorite moment in literature.
JG (The Introverted Reader)
I tried to read this, thought it was boring, and couldn't finish it as a child. I might change my mind if I picked it up again now.
I'm reading it for my literature class, so im only reading a selection of stories from it. They are pretty off beat and interesting.
Лора Бранева
Благодарение прекрасния превод на Петко Бочаров я имаме и на български.
Жалко, че все още нямаме преведена поезията на Сандбърг.
James Giddings
One of the best children's series of all time, now in public domain. You can listen to a free audiobook of this at
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Carl August Sandburg was an American writer and editor, best known for his poetry. He won two Pulitzer Prizes, one for his poetry and another for a biography of Abraham Lincoln. H. L. Mencken called Carl Sandburg "indubitably an American in every pulse-beat".

For more info see
More about Carl Sandburg...
Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years Chicago Poems The Complete Poems Selected Poems Honey and Salt

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“Didn't you tie the mittens on her feet (Wednesday Evening's) extra special nice?
Yes--she is an extra special nice pigeon. She cries for pity when she wants pity. And she shuts her eyes when she doesn't want to look at you. And if you look deep in her eyes when her eyes are open you will see lights there exactly like the lights on the pastures and the meadows when the mist is drifting on a Wednesday evening just between the twilight and gloaming.”
“One summer afternoon I came home and found all the umbrellas sitting in the kitchen, with straw hats on, telling who they are.
The umbrella that peels the potatoes with a pencil and makes a pink ink with the peelings stood up and said, "I am the umbrella that peels the potatoes with a pencil and makes a pink ink with the peelings." ...
The umbrella that runs to the corner to get corners for the handkerchiefs stood up and said, "I am the umbrella that runs to the corner to get corners for the handkerchiefs."


"I am the umbrella that holds up the sky. I am the umbrella the rain comes through. I am the umbrella that tells the sky when to begin raining and when to stop raining.
"I am the umbrella that goes to pieces when the wind blows and then puts itself back together again when the wind goes down. I am the first umbrella, the last umbrella, the one and only umbrella all other umbrellas are named after, first, last and always."
When the stranger finished this speech telling who he was and where he came from, all the other umbrellas sat still for a little while, to be respectful.
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