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The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss Paperback – January 12, 2010

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Editorial Reviews Review

Young doodlers and dreamers of the world, take heart--the famous Dr. Seuss, creator of Whos and Sneetches, was a doodler and dreamer, too. Kathleen Krull's engaging picture-book biography of Ted Geisel, the real Dr. Seuss, takes us from his early childhood on Fairfield Street in Springfield, Massachusetts, to the time when he's 22 years old in Greenwich Village and just starting to think he might make a go of it as a person who draws flying cows. Krull tells a lively story, carefully including details that help us understand how Seuss became Seuss, from playground injustice (Geisel was a German American and World War I loomed large) to his love for Krazy Kat comics.

Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, who also illustrated Seuss's My Many Colored Days, cast Seuss's childhood in a nostalgic light with lovely, old-fashioned paintings. A four-page section in the back picks up Seuss's story again, taking us to 1937 when he launches his children's book career with And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and all the way to his death in 1991. A complete list of Seuss's books and recommendations for further research closes this fascinating look at one of America's most beloved creators of children's books. (Ages 8 and older) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 3-5, younger for reading aloud. Before Geisel became Dr. Seuss, he was a boy who "feasted on books and was wild about animals." This introductory sentence begins a delightful picture-book biography about Geisel that chronicles how he became an innovative writer and illustrator beloved by readers young and old. Born in 1904 to a mother who enjoyed reading and a father who worked at the zoo in Springfield, Massachusetts, Geisel spent his days doodling, hanging out with friends, and generally fooling around. Yet there were also some difficult moments. His German heritage made him a target for teasing at the advent of World War I; he was also a rule breaker and was told by his teacher that he would never get anywhere with his art. The book ends when Geisel, already a published cartoonist, is 22, living in Greenwich Village, and looking forward to a bright future. An extended author's note details how Geisel became Dr. Seuss and discusses a number of his works. Krull's pithy text is extended by full-page paintings that glow with the memory of yesteryear and capture the mix of humor and poignancy that comes with trying to fit in. Spot art from Geisel's own books enlivens the text pages. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 4
  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Dragonfly Books; Reprint edition (January 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375855505
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375855504
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.2 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #172,017 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

KATHLEEN KRULL is well known for her innovative, award-winning nonfiction for young readers, which includes the successful Lives of... series. Kathleen Krull lives in San Diego, CA. Visit her at AND

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By L. Nelson on April 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Do you know a child who feels out of step with the rest of their class? How about one that seems to annoy their teacher because they see the world differently? This biography was made for them!
Dr. Suess seemed to frustrate his teachers as his drawings were so different from all the other children in his class - in this book, readers will learn that he reveled in his uniqueness and embraced his unusual view of the world. As a result, he was able to find success as a cartoonist -- though it did take time.
The biography isn't just for little kids, but could be gifted to any "child" who needs to feel proud of their uniqueness.
Do you hear a drum beat that no one else can hear? Be glad you do -- you might grow up to be as successful as Dr. Suess.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Ferguson VINE VOICE on February 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A great biography for the under-12 crowd, The Boy on Fairfield Street is beautifully illustrated and tenderly written. From Ted's experiences with bullies to a humiliating experience with former President Theodore Roosevelt, Krull has shown the reader Ted's common failings as well as his extraordinary perseverance. Disappointing, however, is the short-stop ending just after Ted moves to New York at 22, before any of his famous children's books were written. There is an additional four page narrative but it is not fully illustrated as the rest of the story is and may leave some children cold unless they have help to get through it. Overall, a wonderful book that is just perfect for a celebration of Dr. Seuss's birthday on March 2 or a celebration of this year's Seussentennial.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on June 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
It's hard to know where to place this biography of Ted Geisel: Boy On Fairfield Street reads with the action and drama of fiction, yet is a bona-fide account of how Geisel grew up to become Dr. Seuss. Paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher accompany a lively discussion of how Geisel got his ideas. Good reading skills or parental assistance required for this in-depth biographical survey.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By LonestarReader on March 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on November 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
My daughter loves Dr. Seuss' imaginative tales and has recently been keen to read about the authors of her favorite books. She picked out this book when she discovered it was about Dr. Seuss. This biography reads more like a story which makes it perfect for young children (my daughter is in second grade) as it adds interest and the illustrations also enhance the narrative.

Ted Geisel who came to be known by his most famous pen name, Dr. Seuss, grew up in the town of Springfield, Massachusetts. As a young boy, Ted loved to read and discover more about wild animals. It helped that he lived close to both a library and a zoo! As Ted grew older, he realized that he didn't quite fit in with the other kids, especially since many of the other children were descended from families that had lived in the town for generations while Ted's grandparents were immigrants from Germany, and were thus considered outsiders.

Nevertheless, Ted's imagination continues to grow even when he faces obstacles - my daughter and I learned that Ted's art teacher in high school was not very inspiring, in fact she objected to Ted's creative work, claiming they were exaggerated. Despite his love of "fooling around", Ted manages to get a place at Dartmouth college and continues to dream and doodle even there. Eventually though, with the help of a friend, Ted realizes that he needs to be himself and exercise his creativity in a productive way, and soon enough success comes knocking at his door!

This biography is pitched just right for its target audience of young readers and is both fun to read as well as inspiring. This makes a perfect follow-up after reading (or re-reading as may be the case) some favorite works by Dr. Seuss, and there surely are plenty to choose from! My daughter and I had an interesting discussion about how early influences in one's life can have a lasting impact on us when we grow up. This makes a great addition to children's collections in libraries.
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