With the release of Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!
readers young and old are afforded a dazzling glimpse into the genius of Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel. The book is based on 14 rough drawings and verses Geisel's secretary gave to the author's editor, Janet Schulman, after his death in 1991. In these scribbled sketches and scratched-out lines, we witness the Seussian process in building a story. When brainstorming the name of what resulted in the Diffendoofer School, he jots down several possible names--"William Wilkins Woofer Junior," "Woodrow Watkins Woofer," "Zoofendorf Elementary," "J. Ebeneezer Bomberg Jr."--all of a slightly different cadence and rhythm, which he tests like a composer writing a new concerto.
A small collection of Geisel's rough sketches would be plenty to thrill even the Grinchiest of readers, but there's much more to this marvelous book. Renowned children's poet Jack Prelutsky and award-winning illustrator Lane Smith were called to action by Schulman to pull these sketches into a complete story that would make Dr. Seuss fruffulous with glee. Prelutsky's delicious verse is uncannily Seussian, and it is inexplicably sensational when exploring the Diffendoofer School to discover good old Horton, a platter of green eggs and ham, and a few Whos from Who-ville scattered across the surreal and fascinating landscape of Smith's artwork. Lane and Prelutsky have gone above and beyond the call of duty, maintaining the characters and themes Geisel was just beginning to develop, but enhancing them with their own delightful stylistic stamps.
Above all, this incredible book is an ode to unorthodox, unusually creative teachers, and the innovative thinking they encourage in young minds. (Miss Twining, for example, teaches "how to tell chrysanthemums from miniature poodles.") It is a noble theme, and one that Geisel surely had in mind when he concocted these preliminary sketches. Both new Dr. Seuss aficionados and those who remember The Cat in the Hat's 1957 debut will cherish this book for its message, artwork, and poetry, and most of all, as a tribute to the man who inspired thousands of readers. (Age 3 and older)
From Publishers Weekly
Dr. Seuss's name towers over the title on the jacket here, setting up readers to measure the book within?extrapolated from scanty manuscript and sketches?against the late artist's classic works. While such a comparison is almost certain to disappoint, it also distracts from an appreciation of the fruitful collaboration between the ebullient Prelutsky (The Dragons Are Singing Tonight) and the innovative Smith (The Stinky Cheese Man). Given some rough art and verses and a list of characters that were compiled by Seuss in 1988 or 1989, Prelutsky and Smith fashion a plot, message and visual milieu (see Children's Books, Feb. 9). Zesty rhymes, some of them Seuss's own, catalogue the eccentric staff of Diffendoofer School. Then trouble threatens: the students must take a standardized test to prove Diffendoofer's worth, lest the school be closed and everyone sent to Flobbertown ("And we shuddered at the name,/ For everyone in Flobbertown/ Does everything the same"). The valiant Miss Bonkers inspires her troops. Balancing a globe on one finger, she proudly declaims: "We've taught you that the earth is round,/ That red and white make pink,/ And something else that matters more-/ We've taught you how to think." Smith pastes in some Seuss sketches and invites Seuss characters and book jackets into his collages. The look, however, is very much Smith's; his style is so strong that it subsumes the Seussian elements in evidence (not just the collaged art but the typeface, the colored pages, the tilt of a given character's nose, etc.). Perhaps the richest reward?for adults if not for children?is the absorbing, meaty afterword by editor Janet Schulman, which allows readers a view of Seuss's draft and gives rare insight into the creative process. Ages 5-up.
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