F O L K L O R E
C H I L D R E N S' B O O K S
P O E T R Y
After hearing his teacher read Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss Wrote ‘The Cat in the Hat,’ a fourth-grader thought up his own, very funny Dr. Seuss-themed writing project.
The book Imagine That! explains how the Dick and Jane readers inspired Dr. Seuss to create something much better. But exactly how awful were The Dick and Jane books? This fourth-grader had never seen one. He decided to write and illustrate his own extremely awful story about Dick, Jane, Sally, and a cat whose name I can't decipher. The story was so boring, he gave up before page two.
A third grader asked me this interesting question about The Great Dictionary Caper.
Yes and no. Yes, I did (more or less), but it was no ordinary dictionary. It was The Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary by Sue Young, which is an essential tool for kids and for adults who write for them. Why? It only contains words that pretty much everyone knows or will eventually know, plus common short phrases. It's fun to read, and sometimes I browse through it just to get my brain in poetry mode. When I was writing Counting Crocodiles, this dictionary gave me the idea of having each group of crocodiles doing something silly that rhymed with either crocodile or croc. Also, The Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary has funny illustrations.
The Scholastic Rhyming Dictionary hasn’t been updated in many years, which is a shame because it includes some slang and brand names. It seemed to be out of print, but there are always used copies available for a couple dollars via the usual sources.
Celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday by reading Wild About Books at Barnes and Noble in Vancouver, Washington, with their fabulous event planner Bjorn Sorensen. His official job title, "Community Business Development Manager," gives no hint of the way he can bring in a crowd, ramp up enthusiasm, and make an author feel awesome.
There is a new Marc Brown/Judy Sierra book in the works—a prequel to Wild About Books. It tells how all the animals built their unique zoo community (hint: a lot of math and many construction vehicles are involved). The book is tentatively scheduled for fall 2019.
What was Dr. Seuss's favorite of all his books?
It may have been The Cat in the Hat. In a 1983 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Dr. Seuss called it the book he was most proud of--
“I think I had something to do with kicking Dick and Jane out of the school system. I think I proved to a number of million kids that reading is not a disagreeable task . . . . I think I have helped kids laugh in schools as well as at home. That's about enough, isn't it?”
I am an author and folklorist based in Portland, Oregon.
Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss Wrote 'The Cat in the Hat"
(Random House, 2017). Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.
*Starred reviews from Publishers' Weekly and Kirkus.
The Great Dictionary Caper, illustrated by Eric Comstock (Paula Wiseman Books, Simon & Schuster, 2018)
**Starred reviews from Publishers' Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist.
Wild About Books, illustrated by Marc Brown. (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2004). New York Times Bestseller, ALA Notable Book, and winner of the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award.