Rootabaga Stories and Rootabaga Pigeons were the only two books that Sandburg wrote specifically for children. His other books for children were by-products of his larger projects: Early Moon (1930), a collection of poems for children, was gleaned from Sandburg’s poetry; Abe Lincoln Grows Up (1928) came from Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years (1926); and Prairie-Town Boy (1955) was excerpted from Always the Young Strangers (1953).
In Rootabaga Stories and Rootabaga Pigeons, Sandburg responded to a particular moment by turning his daughters’ bedtime stories into books that other children might enjoy. Afterward, his monumental six-volume biography of Lincoln took his attention, his daughters grew up, and he never again returned to writing whimsical children’s stories.
Rootabaga Stories and Rootabaga Pigeons have attracted new audiences since their first publication, and they will no doubt endure to amuse future generations. They came from such diverse antecedents as the nonsense verse of Edward Lear and American folktales, as well as from the more nonchalant tradition of parental storytelling. Both books have affinities with subsequent children’s works such as those by Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel), which began to appear in the 1930’s. Rootabaga Stories and Rootabaga Pigeons, by-ways in Sandburg’s literary career, are also by-ways in the course of children’s literature. They remain a unique amalgam of whimsy, poetry, myth, and magic, with a leavening of sympathy for the working class.