Rooted in old Germanic languages, book is a near relative of beech because of “the practice among Germanic peoples of scratching runes onto strips of wood” or, as others speculate, because of “the use of wooden writing tablets” (OED). Romance languages’ liber, which English calls on for library, derives similarly from a word for bark (OED) or leaf (Partridge 1979), while biblio (for Bible and -graphy, -phile, and -mania) draws from a word for papyrus. As with many ancient words, especially words about words, the woodsy etymology of book evokes myth and ritual, investing materiality with magic. Many children’s books may seem to distill the essence of bookness, opening—like fairy tales or Max’s leafy bedroom in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (1963)—onto woods and forests. But the long-lived allure of the children’s book, as of the book itself, has many roots and branches owing to the book’s many ways of making meaning: as a format, as a trope, as a material artifact, as a commodity.

This essay may be found on page 31 of the printed volume.

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