cover image More Rootabagas

More Rootabagas

Carl Sandburg. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $18 (94pp) ISBN 978-0-679-80070-5

In his foreword, George Hendrick explains that Sandburg, searching for bedtime stories for his three daughters, lamented the lack of fairy tales native to this country. So the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and biographer of Abraham Lincoln wrote three volumes of his own, which he described as ``tales with American fooling in them.'' There is indeed ``fooling'' and whimsy aplenty in the 10 previously unpublished tales collected in this cleverly designed, exquisitely illustrated book. In several (but disappointingly few) spots, the type is manipulated playfully around Zelinsky's wondrously inventive art, rendered colored pencil on plastivellum drafting film. Alliteration and clever--if decidedly unorthodox--word usage and sentence structure abound, as do such curious character names as Peter Potato Blossom Wishes, Dippy the Wisp and Sweeter Than the Bees Humming. This all makes for mellifluous, ear-pleasing passages when read aloud, though beginning readers may have trouble tackling some of the text-heavy pages, and may need help deciphering sentences such as ``You give the horses many thoughtfuls, it seems to me.'' Few readers--or listeners--will easily forget Sandburg's unique characters--among them five whispering blue cats that seem to disappear when held up to the sky, a three-legged hat dancer and a green hat-eating horse. And visions of Zelinsky's magical renditions of each will linger equally long. All ages. (Oct.)