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My First Root Children

My First Root ChildrenThough we’re now far from the first blooms of spring, a board book edition of Sibylle von Olfers’ The Story of the Root Children (also published as When the Root Children Wake Up with English text by Helen Fish) has cropped up in the office.

My First Root Children (Floris Books, June 2012) is an abbreviated version of the 1906 classic German tale of Mother Earth and her underground children, who awaken after a long winter to prepare the world for spring—sending the insects above ground, encouraging the flowers to bloom, and more. The board book version manages to retain all of the original artwork, altered slightly in scale, but the text is a loose interpretation. In a contemporary update, it focuses more upon the children’s play and less upon their capacity as workers to usher in the season. Gone also are the staid gender roles of the original, in which girls make spring dresses in their favorite colors and boys deal with the bugs. In this new version, dress-making is a gender-neutral activity and everyone attends to the insects: “Then the children helped the beetles, bumblebees and ladybirds to get ready.” The familiar muted palette—earth tones, if you will—translates nicely to board book format and is a welcome respite from the bright, primary color-saturated standard.

But just like a fall chill, the abrupt ending of this version jars the reader out of illustration-induced warm-weather bliss: “‘Come inside!’ said Mother Earth. ‘It’s nearly winter, and it’s time for bed.'” Sounds like a good place to spend winter in Boston to me…

About Allison Cole

Allison Cole is a former editorial intern for The Horn Book, Inc.

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