Thursday, February 11, 2016

Rootabaga Stories

I can't believe I haven't reviewed Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories here yet! Of all the books we read to our kids, these were the ones that surprised me most. I was amazed that I had never heard of them. Maybe I focused too much on reading nonfiction?

The Rootabaga Country may be somewhere between Oz and Mount Olympus. Sandburg let his imagination soar as he made up stories for his daughters. (Note: the illustration here is from the two-volume set illustrated by Michael Hague.The Rootabaga Stories have been published with various illustrators contributing their art. I just really like Hague's.) In Rootabaga Country the railroad tracks go from straight to zigzag, the pigs wear bibs (some checked, some striped, some polka-dotted), and... well, here's a little of "Poker Face the Baboon and Hot Dog the Tiger."

When the moon has a green rim with red meat inside and black seeds on the red meat, then in Rootabaga Country they call it a Watermelon Moon and look for anything to happen.

It was a night when a Watermelon Moon was shining. Lizzie Lazarus came to the upstairs room of the Potato Face Blind Man. Poker Face the Baboon and Hot Dog the Tiger were with her. She was leading them with a pink string.

"You see they are wearing pajamas," she said. "They sleep with you to-night and to-morrow they go to work with you like mascots."

"How like mascots?" asked the Potato Face Blind Man.

"They are luck bringers. They keep your good luck if it is good. They change your bad luck if it is bad."

"I hear you and my ears get your explanations."

So the next morning when the Potato Face Blind Man sat down to play his accordion on the corner nearest the postoffice in the Village of Liver-an-Onions, next to him on the right hand side sitting on the sidewalk was Poker Face the Baboon and on the left hand side sitting next to him was Hot Dog the Tiger.

They looked like dummies -- they were so quiet. They looked as if they were made of wood and paper and then painted. In the eyes of Poker Face was something faraway. In the eyes of Hot Dog was something hungry. Whitson Whimble, the patent clothes wringer manufacturer, came by in his big limousine automobile car without horses to pull it. He was sitting back on the leather upholstered seat cushions.

"Stop here," he commanded the chauffeur driving the car.

Recordings of Sandburg reading Rootabaga Stories are available. If you get the chance to listen to him, it is a treat (and look for anything to happen). But so is reading them (to yourself or to another, or others), whether you're a youngster, or, as I was, a parent. To me, they rank with the best of children's literature.

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