Rootabaga Stories
Carl Sandburg
Children
3:19 h
Level 3
Rootabaga Stories (1922) is a children's book of interrelated short stories by Carl Sandburg. The whimsical, sometimes melancholy stories, which often use nonsense language, were originally created for his own daughters. Sandburg had three daughters, Margaret, Janet and Helga, whom he nicknamed "Spink", "Skabootch" and "Swipes", and those nicknames occur in some of his Rootabaga stories.

Rootabaga Stories

by
Carl Sandburg

Illustrations and Decorations by Maud and Miska Petersham


The balloons floated and filled the sky

1. Three Stories about the Finding of the Zigzag Railroad, the Pigs with Bibs on, the Circus Clown Ovens, the Village of Liver-and-Onions, the Village of Cream Puffs

People:Gimme the Ax
Please Gimme
Ax Me No Questions
The Ticket Agent
Wing Tip the Spick

The Four Uncles
The Rat in a Blizzard
The Five Rusty Rats

More People:
Balloon Pickers
Baked Clowns
Polka Dot Pigs

How They Broke Away to Go to the Rootabaga Country

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.

“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.

And both of the children had the shadows of valleys by night in their eyes and the lights of early morning, when the sun is coming up, on their foreheads.

And the hair on top of their heads was a dark wild grass. And they loved to turn the doorknobs, open the doors, and run out to have the wind comb their hair and touch their eyes and put its six soft fingers on their foreheads.

And then because no more boys came and no more girls came, Gimme the Ax said to himself, “My first boy is my last and my last girl is my first and they picked their names themselves.”

Please Gimme grew up and his ears got longer. Ax Me No Questions grew up and her ears got longer. And they kept on living in the house where everything is the same as it always was. They learned to say just as their father said, “The chimney sits on top of the house and lets the smoke out, the doorknobs open the doors, the windows are always either open or shut, we are always either upstairs or downstairs — everything is the same as it always was.”

After a while they began asking each other in the cool of the evening after they had eggs for breakfast in the morning, “Who’s who? How much? And what’s the answer?”

“It is too much to be too long anywhere,” said the tough old man, Gimme the Ax.