Bozo the Button Buster speaking to the townspeople.

Favorite Childhood Stories that Take on New Meaning in Troubled Times

One of my favorite childhood stories was “Bozo the Button Buster” written by Carl Sandburg.  Originally published in Rootabaga Tales, it was in our collection of Book Trails, a series of story collections bound in red with gold lettering on the spine.  The full title of the story was “How Bozo the Button Buster Busted All His Buttons when a Mouse Came.”

Bozo loved to talk.  Every time he took “wind into his lungs to go on speaking” a button or two or three would fly off and hit someone he was talking to in the face.

There was one thing that Bozo was afraid of – mice!  Before speaking he would ask, “Do you have a mouse in your pocket?  I will speak to you if there are no mice in your pockets!”

Now there was a strange thing about Bozo.  He had a string tied to him.  It was a long string with a knot in the end.  Bozo explained the string by saying: “Sometimes I forget where I am; then I feel for the string tied to me, and I follow the string to where it is tied to me; then I know where I am again.”


As soon as Bozo came into the Village of Cream Puffs the last time, he began to speak.  He was covered with more buttons than ever before all fitting very tightly.  Whenever he filled his lungs with wind to go on speaking, five or six buttons would pop off and fly into someone’s face.  Bozo had much to say that day, all about how he was the one who made everything right.  His claims were fantastical.  Buttons flew off Bozo in all directions making piles of buttons all around.

Later a mouse came slipping into the crowd.  The mouse found the string tied to Bozo the Button Buster and began to chew on it.  The mouse chewed off the knot and split the string with its sharp teeth.  Bozo cried out “Ai! Ai! Ai!”

All the people ran to the Village Square to see what was happening.  Every button had burst loose from Bozo.  There was a pile of clothes on the ground near the piles of buttons, but nothing more.


When we asked my mom to explain what happened, she told us, “All the hot air went out of Bozo.  And that’s all he was – a bunch of hot air!”

I leave it up to you, dear reader, to determine who Bozo is in our times.


I am not the only one who sees this as a parable of our time.  Check out what the Daily Kos has to say.

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