MORE ROOTABAGAS

Three volumes of the "American fairy tales" the poet called "Rootabaga Stories" were published between 1922 and 1930; later, according to an introduction by Sandburg scholar George Hendrick, he wrote dozens more that have never been published. Here, Hendrick selects ten that "most reflect Sandburg's incomparable storytelling magic." Favorite characters and places—"The Potato Face Blind Man," "Ax Me No Questions," "The Village of Liver and Onions"—join characters with names recalling Sandburg's children's nicknames ("Spink," "Skabootch," "Swipes") and some grand new ones (one trio: "Burnt Chestnuts," "The Beans Are Burning," and "Sweeter Than The Bees Humming"). For connoisseurs of Sandburg's uniquely whimsical and melodious use of the American idiom, these tales are a delight; the ruminative, ear-tickling repetitions, visual images, astonishing juxtapositions, airy surreal happenings, and sly metaphorical comments on human foibles are all here in strength. And Zelinsky's accomplishment is equally great. Using colored pencils on plastivellum drafting film, he mirrors and embellishes Sandburg's fantastical creations with enormous delicacy and imagination, providing dozens of delicious variations on the rutabaga theme (one becomes a coiled blue cat with downward-descending tail, others have fey creatures nestled in their greens), limning characters with characteristic energy, artfully manipulating the very text. His art for the last tale, where the poet makes a cameo appearance, is especially lovely and ingenious. Splendid in every way. (Fiction. 4+)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-679-80070-0

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1993

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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