As Winter relented and let go its grip on the world and parents everywhere began to let themselves just imagine the prospect of a day when going outside didn’t involve bundling their offspring into umpteen layers of waterproofs and wellies, one book kept appearing in my blogging peripheral vision, mentioned again and again in passing on some of my favourite blogs. The Story of the Root Children seemed to be as much a part of their Spring as it is unfathomable to me to go through Christmas without reading The Night Before Christmas more times than you can remember to count.
And so my interest was piqued. Which means I looked it up on Amazon. In my defence I did also have to buy the Lion Storyteller Bible for a christening present for a friend of ours and the idea of adding in a little something for the girls and Pip was, irrisistible. It always is when it comes to books.
But to my surprise, Amazon didn’t have a copy of The Story of the Root Children (we may all pause now at the wonder of discovering something that Amazon doesn’t sell) but they did have My First Root Children, and as it seemed about time to add a story to the more junior end of our library and I’d already picked something out for Kitty, into the basket it went.
It has been a huge hit. I think in my mind I’d intended it mostly for Pip, and he certainly enjoys turning the pages, trying to chew the corners and looking at the pictures, but it’s Elma who has really taken it to her heart. And will gamely wrestle anyone for possession of it, and the pictures from my attempts at taking a photo speak for themselves.
It makes me giggle a little because as soon as I looked at the pictures of the little root children then reminded me so much of Elma, with their sleepy faces and brown flyaway hair; I wonder whether that’s why she loves it so much, because she can see herself in them?
But on to the story. This is an abridged version of the original, but packed full of Sibylle von Offers’ original words and drawings. Over the five spreads of the book the root children wake up, sew themselves pretty new dresses and set to work getting the beetles, bumblebees and ladybirds ready to do their work, giving them sponge baths, brushing their fuzz and painting on their spots before they all head out into the sunshine. They dance and dance until autumn comes and it’s time for everyone to cuddle up inside again and sleep the winter through.
It’s a simple story, very sweet and with echos of a dozen other tales of fairies, fantasy and magic but it’s the illustrations that really steal the show. I’ve said how much the little root children remind me of Elma and I’d always love them for that but there’s so much to look at in each picture too, the little details that only pop out to you after you’ve read it a few times; Mother Earth with her knitting or the root baby playing peekaboo with a snail.
There’s really only one problem; now that I’ve fallen for the baby board book version, I really really want to get the full version for the girls, because I think this could just as easily become a stalwart of spring in our family too.
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