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The Story of the Root Children

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This is a classic story of the changing seasons. The root children spend the winter asleep. When spring comes, they wake, sew themselves new gowns, and clean and paint the beetles and bugs. All summer they play in fields, ponds and meadows before returning in the autumn to Mother Earth, who welcomes them home and puts them to bed once more. Also available in a mini version This is a classic story of the changing seasons. The root children spend the winter asleep. When spring comes, they wake, sew themselves new gowns, and clean and paint the beetles and bugs. All summer they play in fields, ponds and meadows before returning in the autumn to Mother Earth, who welcomes them home and puts them to bed once more. Also available in a mini version for small hands. (Ages 3-7)


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This is a classic story of the changing seasons. The root children spend the winter asleep. When spring comes, they wake, sew themselves new gowns, and clean and paint the beetles and bugs. All summer they play in fields, ponds and meadows before returning in the autumn to Mother Earth, who welcomes them home and puts them to bed once more. Also available in a mini version This is a classic story of the changing seasons. The root children spend the winter asleep. When spring comes, they wake, sew themselves new gowns, and clean and paint the beetles and bugs. All summer they play in fields, ponds and meadows before returning in the autumn to Mother Earth, who welcomes them home and puts them to bed once more. Also available in a mini version for small hands. (Ages 3-7)

30 review for The Story of the Root Children

  1. 4 out of 5

    Manybooks

    Sibylle von Olfers' Etwas von den Wurzelkindern is likely my very favourite German language picture book (I would even place it among my favourite picture books of all time). I loved this book when my grandmother first read it to me when I was a toddler, and I still love both the text (the original German text) and the luminous "Jugendstil" illustrations with all of my heart and soul (a wonderful homage to spring, to rebirth, to joy, and to the loving care that Mother Earth gives to all). For a Sibylle von Olfers' Etwas von den Wurzelkindern is likely my very favourite German language picture book (I would even place it among my favourite picture books of all time). I loved this book when my grandmother first read it to me when I was a toddler, and I still love both the text (the original German text) and the luminous "Jugendstil" illustrations with all of my heart and soul (a wonderful homage to spring, to rebirth, to joy, and to the loving care that Mother Earth gives to all). For a picture book originally published in 1906, it remains remarkably fresh and current and continues to be a top-seller, a perennial favourite in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A German review on Amazon describes it as soul-nourishment for the youngest, and while I heartily agree with that statement, I think that this book is soul-nourishment not only for the youngest, but for everyone (I can actually recite most of the original text from memory, that is how much I love this book, how much I adore this book). The Story of the Root-Children (originally published in 1990 by Floris Books of Edinburgh, Scotland) is touted as being a true and bona fide English language translation of Etwas von den Wurzelkindern (but the translator remains anonymous). And I am not trying to be in any way dismissive and disrespectful to those who have read and enjoyed this book, but for me, the ONLY thing that makes The Story of the Root Children even remotely worthwhile are Sibylle von Olfers' lush and luminous illustrations. The text simply does not work for me; in fact, I completely and utterly DESPISE it. I know that a translation is never, and can never be the exact replica of the original, but there is not even the vestige of the original German text, of its poetry, cadence and rhythm left in this here version. Sibylle von Olfers lyrical narrative, beautiful, evocative and simple enough to share with even the youngest children, has been transformed into a very loose remodeling (and one which I cannot, in all honesty, even call a translation), devoid of any of the poetry and much of the magic that has made the German original such a treat, such a joy to read. Furthermore, the text has been expanded to such an extent (additional words, actions, entire scenarios) that, in my opinion, The Story of the Root Children has ceased to be a picture book for very young children and has been turned into a textually dense retelling more suited for slightly older children. Now if The Story of the Root Children had been described and marketed as a retelling of the German original (and with the author of the adapted text properly identified, as well as von Olfers named as illustrator), I probably would have enjoyed it quite a bit more than I did (not as much as the original German version, of course, but I would likely have appreciated the story, the text, as a clever and imaginative interpretation). And no, The Story of the Root Children is definitely not a terrible or even an inappropriate picture book, a terrible story in and of itself. However, in my humble opinion, it simply cannot and actually should not be regarded as a true translation of Sibylle von Olfers' masterpiece; its many stylistic, textual, even thematic alterations make it but a rather loose and for me massively annoying adaptation. In fact, the only part of The Story of the Root Children that I would designate as being wholly of and by Sibylle von Olfers are the illustrations. And while I thus cannot really in any way recommend The Story of the Root-Children for its text, its adapted narrative (especially since it actually is touted as being a true translation of the original, a fact that has angered me enough to now only consider but one star), I can and do recommend the book for the simply glorious illustrations (and if you know how to read German, go and get yourself a copy of the German original for a truly magical, wonderful and lyrically, poetically sweet reading experience).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Manybooks

    Sibylle von Olfers' Etwas von den Wurzelkindern is one of my all-time favourite picture books. I loved this book as a child (and have fond memories of both of my grandmothers reading it to me), and I still love both the simple, poetic text and the luminous "Jugendstil" illustrations. Sibylle von Olfers' masterpiece represents a glowing, loving homage to spring, youth, rebirth, joy, and the loving care Mother Earth gives to all. For a picture book originally published in 1906, this (in my humble Sibylle von Olfers' Etwas von den Wurzelkindern is one of my all-time favourite picture books. I loved this book as a child (and have fond memories of both of my grandmothers reading it to me), and I still love both the simple, poetic text and the luminous "Jugendstil" illustrations. Sibylle von Olfers' masterpiece represents a glowing, loving homage to spring, youth, rebirth, joy, and the loving care Mother Earth gives to all. For a picture book originally published in 1906, this (in my humble opinion) true gem of a picture book remains remarkably fresh and current even today, perennial favourite and bestseller in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It is soul-nourishment for both children and adults (I can actually recite most of the original German text from memory, that is how much I adore this delightful picture book).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    Updated review: For some reason, GoodReads placed my review of "Story of the Root-Children" (the original with illustrations by von Olfers) under the newly published book "Mother Earth and Her Children" BASED on von Olfers' original. I have now read the "new" book and, while I found the quilt to be an absolute marvel (wow! no wonder the quilter won so many awards for her work!) I felt that it lacked the charm of the original illustrations and would probably only give it three stars at most. The b Updated review: For some reason, GoodReads placed my review of "Story of the Root-Children" (the original with illustrations by von Olfers) under the newly published book "Mother Earth and Her Children" BASED on von Olfers' original. I have now read the "new" book and, while I found the quilt to be an absolute marvel (wow! no wonder the quilter won so many awards for her work!) I felt that it lacked the charm of the original illustrations and would probably only give it three stars at most. The below review applies to the ORIGINAL story with illustrations by von Olfers. Far superior to the "quilted" version: Very interesting story, originally published in German in 1906. Cute concept of Mother Earth "awakening" the root children at the beginning of spring, they sew their "clothes" and then head up above ground to enjoy the spring and summer; then back into the ground to sleep away the winter. Very interesting pictures; I'm not sure how well children would relate to them as they are very naturalistic in some aspects (the beetles, for example, look quite real and are the same size as the children!) and very art nouveau in others (which I completely loved, though!) especially in the root children and the flower borders. Definitely recommended if you are looking for something different in the way of illustrations.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Abigail

    The Story of the Root Children, with the original artwork of Sibylle von Olfers. My first exposure to this classic German children's book was through Jack Zipes' poetic translation, Mother Earth and Her Children , with quilted illustrations done by Sieglinde Schoen-Smith, in the style of Sibylle von Olfers. I have since discovered that there are two other English-language adaptations available: Audrey Wood's When The Root Children Wake Up , with illustrations done by Ned Bittinger, and Hele The Story of the Root Children, with the original artwork of Sibylle von Olfers. My first exposure to this classic German children's book was through Jack Zipes' poetic translation, Mother Earth and Her Children , with quilted illustrations done by Sieglinde Schoen-Smith, in the style of Sibylle von Olfers. I have since discovered that there are two other English-language adaptations available: Audrey Wood's When The Root Children Wake Up , with illustrations done by Ned Bittinger, and Helen Dean Fish' similarly titled When the Root Children Wake Up , with von Olfers' own original artwork. This edition, The Story of the Root Children, published by the UK-based Floris Books, is a significantly expanded prose version of von Olfers' original poem, together with her artwork. The view of Nature here is very anthropomorphic, in a way that I imagine will be appealing for some, and less so for others. For my part, I really appreciated it as an example of the other strain of classic German children's literature: the kinder, gentler strain, especially when compared to such terrifying tales as Der Struwwelpeter . So many people with whom I speak (having read all of one book) tend to reduce German children's literature to the latter, so it will be helpful to have a title toward which to point them, in arguing otherwise. Addendum: having now had the opportunity to read the German original of this tale, Etwas von den Wurzelkindern , I can see how significant the expansion of von Olfers' text is in this edition! I'm not sure, all things considered, that this Floris Books title should even really be considered a translation, as it in no way resembles the rhyming poem found in the original. It's disturbing to me that no translator is listed, and that there is no acknowledgment that the text has been so dramatically altered. Given that von Olfers' name is the only one appearing on the book, English-language readers could be forgiven for thinking that this was a fairly faithful rendition. Those looking for the English language version of this story closest to the original text should pick up Jack Zipes' translation, in Mother Earth and Her Children: A Quilted Fairy Tale , which, although not perfect, retains the original rhyming poetic form. Those looking for a prose retelling of the tale, one that acknowledges what it is doing, should look to Helen Dean Fish's When the Root Children Wake Up , which (like this edition) contains von Olfers' original artwork, but which (unlike this edition) is frank about the fact that it is an adaptation, rather than a translation.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Abigail

    Etwas von den Wurzelkindern, original German text and illustrations by Sibylle von Olfers. After reading two very different English "translations" of this classic German picture-book, first published in 1906 - Jack Zipes' brief but poetic rendition, in Mother Earth and Her Children: A Quilted Fairy Tale , and an unnamed translator's extensive prose version, in Floris Books' The Story of the Root Children - I have been lucky enough (thank you, Gundula!) to obtain a copy of the original Germ Etwas von den Wurzelkindern, original German text and illustrations by Sibylle von Olfers. After reading two very different English "translations" of this classic German picture-book, first published in 1906 - Jack Zipes' brief but poetic rendition, in Mother Earth and Her Children: A Quilted Fairy Tale , and an unnamed translator's extensive prose version, in Floris Books' The Story of the Root Children - I have been lucky enough (thank you, Gundula!) to obtain a copy of the original German edition. Having now read the original text, my estimation of the two versions listed above, as well as my judgment of two other loose retellings - Audrey Wood's When The Root Children Wake Up , illustrated by Ned Bittinger, and Helen Dean Fish's similarly titled When the Root Children Wake Up , with von Olfers' own artwork - must be reconsidered. An important lesson, I think, about the difficulties attendant upon translating poetic works, even seemingly "simple" narratives like this. This tale of the little Wurzelkindern, or Root Children, who awaken as Spring approaches, and, with the guidance of old Mutter Erde (Mother Earth), make ready for their appearance in the world, is told entirely in rhyming poetry: "Und als der Frühling / kommt ins Land, / da ziehn gleich einem / bunten Band, / die Käfer, Blumen / Gräser klein, / frohlockend in die / Welt hinein." Together with von Olfers' charming Art Nouveau style illustrations, the sprightly text makes for a delightful reading experience: one imagines that German children have enjoyed hearing it read aloud for a few generations now! It's a shame (though perhaps not surprising) that none of the English-language versions I have read really capture the flavor of the original. In any case, I'm happy to have had the chance to read the German, as it has definitely given me a better appreciation of von Olfers' work!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Why is the art so much more attractive in the old editions! I've only read English translations of this book, so I was pleased to see Gundula's comments. Too bad I can't read German. I guess I have to wait for another translator to tackle this. Joy in nature! The awakening of flowers and insects in the spring! And the little root children, busily helping everything along. A gentle story. Why is the art so much more attractive in the old editions! I've only read English translations of this book, so I was pleased to see Gundula's comments. Too bad I can't read German. I guess I have to wait for another translator to tackle this. Joy in nature! The awakening of flowers and insects in the spring! And the little root children, busily helping everything along. A gentle story.

  7. 4 out of 5

    siriusedward

    Such a wonderful tale.My kids loved the beautiful illustrations and the story.A lovely fairy tale for kids.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chantal

    Although the drawings were great of this book, I found the story lacking. It didn't really go somewhere and was just average. Wished I liked it more then I did. Although the drawings were great of this book, I found the story lacking. It didn't really go somewhere and was just average. Wished I liked it more then I did.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    The Story of the Root Children. What a wonderful little book! I found an online edition, complete with artwork, at childrenslibrary.org. Unfortunately it was in the original German so I had my husband translate it for me (over the phone while he was out of town for work--what a fabulous guy!). It's difficult to translate poetry, so I'm sure I missed out on some of the magic, but I picked up the gist of the story. The root children are little flowers and weeds whom Mother Earth awakens to prepare The Story of the Root Children. What a wonderful little book! I found an online edition, complete with artwork, at childrenslibrary.org. Unfortunately it was in the original German so I had my husband translate it for me (over the phone while he was out of town for work--what a fabulous guy!). It's difficult to translate poetry, so I'm sure I missed out on some of the magic, but I picked up the gist of the story. The root children are little flowers and weeds whom Mother Earth awakens to prepare for spring--comb your hair and sew your spring clothes, she tells them. They come out of the ground and play through summer and into fall when Mother Earth calls them home and puts them to bed until next year. I love LOVE! the illustrations and am tempted to track down a copy for myself just so I can look at the pictures. Definitely worth a look. It seems like there are several different editions and some English translations. My review is based on the original book published by Schreiber (Germany) in 1906; 19 pages, and found here: http://www.childrenslibrary.org/icdl/...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Beautiful illustrations.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    An interesting look at the cycle of the three seasons and how the earth 'wakes up' from its' winter slumber. An interesting look at the cycle of the three seasons and how the earth 'wakes up' from its' winter slumber.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Yourmidcoastmama

    One of our springtime favourites!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Patriciahoperose

    I love the illustrations.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Danielle Rocke

    I love this book. Beautiful illustrations and a wonderful story to introduce science in an imaginative way.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    Creative way to tell about spring.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    This book is pure sweetness. I want them all to come to my yard next spring. I adored every papge.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alice Ball

    Emergent spring story with von Olfers classic early 20th century illustrations.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Francis S. Poesy

    I'm a sucker for the old-time picture books. I'm not sure if its their sense of whimsy, their sincerity, or just the artwork (why not all three!), but I love them. I will never not give them 5 stars. I'm a sucker for the old-time picture books. I'm not sure if its their sense of whimsy, their sincerity, or just the artwork (why not all three!), but I love them. I will never not give them 5 stars.

  19. 5 out of 5

    BRNTerri

    This is slightly strange and creepy, with the children living underground in the dark and having to make their own clothing. They're overseen by the elderly Mother Earth . It's a very simple twenty-four page children's picture book showing their outdoor activities during each season of the year. I love the illustrations but wish more colors had been used. My favorite image is below. This is slightly strange and creepy, with the children living underground in the dark and having to make their own clothing. They're overseen by the elderly Mother Earth . It's a very simple twenty-four page children's picture book showing their outdoor activities during each season of the year. I love the illustrations but wish more colors had been used. My favorite image is below.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cherene

    1001 Children's Books list Age group: 3+ Their list: 45/1001 My list: 74/1001 Why they say you should read it? Appealing for its short verse and the colourful, nature like depictions of the world. My kids thoughts? Although the artwork has that playful brown, green and yellow pallet, with splashes of bright colour, that many an early 1900’s picture book had when depicting nature, it’s nice artwork. The verse in concept is cute, a group of tiny children set to care for children, but just didn’t age w 1001 Children's Books list Age group: 3+ Their list: 45/1001 My list: 74/1001 Why they say you should read it? Appealing for its short verse and the colourful, nature like depictions of the world. My kids thoughts? Although the artwork has that playful brown, green and yellow pallet, with splashes of bright colour, that many an early 1900’s picture book had when depicting nature, it’s nice artwork. The verse in concept is cute, a group of tiny children set to care for children, but just didn’t age well enough to interest my children.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor Scott

    This lovely book is great for young children who don't like conflict in their bedtime stories. (I have a child like that, so read this book often for many years.) The art is beautiful, and scientifically precise for all its sweetness. Von Olfers was a eccentric young nun who wrote her children's books for her little sister, to whom she was close. Originally published in German in 1906, The Root Children was translated into English in 199o. The language retains a vintage European flavor. This lovely book is great for young children who don't like conflict in their bedtime stories. (I have a child like that, so read this book often for many years.) The art is beautiful, and scientifically precise for all its sweetness. Von Olfers was a eccentric young nun who wrote her children's books for her little sister, to whom she was close. Originally published in German in 1906, The Root Children was translated into English in 199o. The language retains a vintage European flavor.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kristal

    Read on archive .org Always interesting to look at folktales. Interesting concept that there are children who live under the earth for winter and frolic around in warmer weather. It’s not the most exciting story, but it’s short.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ruth clarke

    I loved reading this book, beautiful old fashioned German childrens classic.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Juli Anna

    This will forever be a favorite for my tiny-nature-creature-loving heart.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Fräulein Bunny

    Lovely picture book classic

  26. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    A sweet story of the coming of spring.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jean James

    I owned this when I was a small child and just recently found a copy. Brought a smile to my face remembering how I studied those pictures when I was a 6 year old.

  28. 4 out of 5

    J

    This was just a book that we came across without looking for it while I am glad that I was able to give it a chance. The artwork is just gorgeous and the story is fun enough convey the reader into an underworld location as the world starts to waken up for Spring after its long nap. The writing is very easy and simple to follow along while most kids will appreciate it. The story to keep it in short format is a bit of a jumper from one event to another instead of elaborating but it doesn't take a This was just a book that we came across without looking for it while I am glad that I was able to give it a chance. The artwork is just gorgeous and the story is fun enough convey the reader into an underworld location as the world starts to waken up for Spring after its long nap. The writing is very easy and simple to follow along while most kids will appreciate it. The story to keep it in short format is a bit of a jumper from one event to another instead of elaborating but it doesn't take away from the whole story in the end. Due to some flower names and I think the snail's name there may need to be a bit of a help on pronunciation but everything else should be fine for the reader. Again the artwork is gorgeous and keeps the German taste of the author as well as the time when the book was made. For those who are fans of the fairy books by Mary Cicely Baker they will fall in love just as much with the Root-Children while it is sad that there can't be a combination of the two worlds. All in all a true treasure and one that needs to be continued to be saved for later generations. And maybe hopefully I can find some other books from the same author to see how they read but until then I am going to see if I can get my sister to read this to my niece.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    I love stories about mystical beings and the Root-children are such creatures. I believe a lot of children would love them too but they seem to have fallen a bit out of fashion these days with so much literature cemented in more realistic themes. I feel that the imagination is a most precious thing and that stories like this one feed the imagination in a way unmatched by realism. The artistry in the illustrations of The Story of the Root-Children is magnificent. If I owned more than one copy of t I love stories about mystical beings and the Root-children are such creatures. I believe a lot of children would love them too but they seem to have fallen a bit out of fashion these days with so much literature cemented in more realistic themes. I feel that the imagination is a most precious thing and that stories like this one feed the imagination in a way unmatched by realism. The artistry in the illustrations of The Story of the Root-Children is magnificent. If I owned more than one copy of this book, I'd be sorely tempted to take it apart and frame many of the pages to adorn the walls of my office or room. They are simply colored-in line drawings but they are detailed enough that if the readers knows the names of the various plants and creatures shown, this book could also be used as a teaching tool for nature. And, if the names aren't known, it could be used as a jumping-off point for a learning adventure for the reader as well!

  30. 4 out of 5

    T Crockett

    I read this with a 5 yr old. The first few pages we were both full of curiosity and had all sorts of questions about the premise. Were they people? Fairies? Something new? Why were they underground? Did they like it there? Were there any boys? Once spring arrives and the children emerge (the point when I hoped for some further explanation and my audience hoped for something to happen), the book becomes almost completely descriptive. It was disappointing, especially after such an intriguing start. I read this with a 5 yr old. The first few pages we were both full of curiosity and had all sorts of questions about the premise. Were they people? Fairies? Something new? Why were they underground? Did they like it there? Were there any boys? Once spring arrives and the children emerge (the point when I hoped for some further explanation and my audience hoped for something to happen), the book becomes almost completely descriptive. It was disappointing, especially after such an intriguing start. The art is lovely throughout.

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