Thursday, March 02, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

The Boy on Fairfield Street
by Kathleen Krull, paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, 2004

This is a wonderful biography to share with children and adults. A poll of any group of readers about their favorite books will ALWAYS come up with Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat. Ted Geisel's work is loved.

Kathleen Krull describes the events in his early life that became part of his work and interests later. His lifelong love of animals, his shyness, his sense of justice and fairplay were outgrowths of his boyhood on Fairfield Street in Springfield, MA.

Geisel's boyhood was filled with fun and adventure but he was always slightly out of step with the rest of the world. He was a kid who preferred drawing crazy animals to studying. As the son of German immigrants, he was mocked and bullied. He had a three-legged dog. He wrote and drew under pseudonyms.

The book follows his childhood and college days and ends with Ted striking out on his own, as an illustrator and cartoonist in Greenwich Village.

The paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher seem to just glow and invite the reader to keep turning the pages.

I read this book to many classes as it was a Bluebonnet title but this is not a book you can just breeze though. There is much to discuss and digest. Without fail, the kids are outraged when Ted is shorted his medal for selling war bonds in an embarrassing presentation by former President Theodore Roosevelt. They are thrilled when Ted draws on the walls of his room and does NOT get in trouble. They examined the illustrations closely. I shared the book with at least 10 classes before I noticed (thanks to a sharp-eyed student) Ted's three legged dog is featured on the cover of the book. The kids also enjoyed picking out the tiny Seuss images on the corners of the pages.

There is a comprehensive "rest of the story" at the end of the book with details about his later life.

This is a lovely tribute to an American icon.

If you know kids who are fans of books by Theodore Le Sieg (The Eye Book, The Foot Book, Ten Apples Up on Top, Wacky Wednesday) have them spell Le Sieg's name backwards after you finish this book.

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