Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Seuss’

Send me back to Kindergarten.  I totally failed Sharing.

So on March 2 The Lorax joined the Dr. Seuss Book Turned Full-Length Movie Club.  Word on the street is that it’s doing pretty well in the box office and is actually getting some positive reviews.  (If you’re detecting a note of surprise, it’s because I am.  After the disasters that were The Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I fully expect all full-length movies based on Seuss books to fail epically.)  In spite of these fairly positive reviews, I haven’t seen the movie yet.  In fact, I’m still pretending it doesn’t exist.

Up until about two minutes ago, I chalked this behavior up to worry – worry that the movie would let me down.  I’m so tired of picture books being turned into movies.  They disappoint me almost every single time.  And I so don’t want to be disappointed in The Lorax because, well, it’s The Lorax.  It’s one of the best Seuss books out there.  Plus once books get turned into movies then people usually think of the movie instead of the book, and if the movie is terrible then that means people are equating a horrible movie with a great book and that just irritates and saddens me.

So as I said, up until about two minutes ago (okay, yes, it’s been more than two minutes by now, but just work with me, okay?) I thought this was the reason for my Lorax movie avoidance.  And it is, to a degree.

But then I had an epiphany.  The real reason I’m pretending the movie Lorax doesn’t exist?


See, I wrote my Master’s thesis on the Lorax (the character from the book! not the movie!).  I poured my heart and soul into that thesis.  I agonized, I worried, I stressed, I cried, I paced, I wrote and rewrote over and over and over.  I carried the weight of that thesis around for two years.  When I finally finished it a year ago I knew it wasn’t perfect, I knew it wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was still the greatest accomplishment of my academic career and I was so thrilled I thought I was going to pop with joy.  I floated on air for weeks.

And now they’ve taken The Lorax, the book I carried around in my head for two years, and turned it into a cheesy animated film and I wish it didn’t exist because I don’t want to share it.  And I know I sound like a toddler, I know I’m being silly, but dammit, that’s my baby.  They stole my baby.

Eventually, I will get over this.  I’ll stop whining, I’ll let it go, I’ll even go watch the movie.  But I’m throwing a temper tantrum first.

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“You’re never too old,

too wacky, too wild,

To pick up a book

and read to a child.”


Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

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Got a quickie for you today – this is the Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla, California. Originally called the “Central Library,” and then the “University Library Building,” in 1995 UCSD renamed it the Geisel Library in honor of Audrey and Theodor Geisel (you know him better as Dr. Seuss).

Geisel Library, UC San Diego, CA

A coworker of mine stumbled across a picture of this library while playing on the internet, and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to feature it here. While I think a true Dr. Seuss library would look wackier than this, this one does seem to suit him. Maybe it’s the inverted pyramid look that does it, or all the sharp angles. Anyway, the building has eight levels, and rises 110 feet above ground. The widest level above ground is the sixth level, which is 210 feet wide. It contains 17,000 cubic yards of concrete and 38,000 square feet of plate glass. (Whew!) Floors four through eight house most of the library’s collection and study space, and the first two floors are service areas and staff work space.

So what’s on the third floor? Apparently there’s an “urban legend” going around that the architects didn’t take into account the weight of all the books and so they had to leave the third floor empty and closed off. In reality the third floor is just the outside forum. (Well, that’s not very exciting!)

On its list of 154 things to do in San Diego, The Lonely Planet lists the Geisel Library at #19. I can see why. I’d love to see this library in person. Has anyone ever been there? What did you think?

Geisel Library at sunset

Sources: The Lonely Planet, UC San Diego, Wikipedia

Photo credits: top photo – Flickr (via Wikipedia); bottom photo –

EDIT:  See Library Love: The Fine Print.  (edited 3/11/12)

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by Judith & Neil Morgan 
Random House, 1995
Source: Hollins University library

Well, I got my wish — another snowbound weekend!  I honestly didn’t think this would happen again this winter, much less so soon after the last storm.  Since the snow started early Friday morning I actually got a three-day weekend out of the deal, which means I had absolutely no reason not to finish Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel.  I am relieved to say that I did.

Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel offers a detailed account of the life of Ted Geisel, the infamous children’s author/illustrator Dr. Seuss.  Overall, it was an interesting read.  Geisel’s personality is exactly what I would have expected from the author of The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham: rowdy, playful, mischievous, subversive. 

Frequently, however, the book was bogged down by pages of aimless anecdotes and name-dropping, and so by the time I was about halfway through the book I was ready to be done with it.  Don’t get me wrong — most of the anecdotes were amusing and illuminated Geisel’s personality perfectly while simultaneously moving the biography along.  Sometimes these anecdotes read more like lists than stories, though, and didn’t seem to serve any purpose to the book as a whole.  The constant string of names wore me out, too.  By about two-thirds of the way through the book I stopped trying to keep track of people, since most of the time the person mentioned never showed up again.  I decided that the Morgans were just trying to pay tribute to the people who were important in Geisel’s life, and tried not to let it bother me too much.

While I think the book could have been streamlined a bit, I do recommend it for anyone interested in reading about Dr. Seuss.  He was quite an entertaining man 🙂

Did I miss your review?  Let me know and I’ll make a list!

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by Ruth K. MacDonald
Twayne Publishers, 1988
Source: Hollins University library

Published in 1988, Dr. Seuss by Ruth K. MacDonald was the first full-length study of Dr. Seuss and his work. At the time of its publication, Seuss had published fifty-six books, won three Caldecott Honors, won a Pulitzer Prize, received numerous honorary degrees, (beginning with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Dartmouth College in 1956), and was serving as president of the Beginner Books division of Random House (established after the publication of The Cat in the Hat). In spite of all this, until MacDonald’s book Seuss’ work had received very little attention from literary scholars. I wish I could say this fact surprised me. The truth of the matter is that children’s literature is frequently dismissed from the Canon of Literature and therefore does not receive the scholarly attention that it is due. But that’s a rant for another day.

As a first work on Seuss, MacDonald’s book is impressive. In just 170 pages she not only provides a relatively detailed biographical sketch of Seuss, (which, I imagine, must have been difficult to write given that he was a fairly private man), but also critically examines each of his books, spending between one and nine pages discussing their characters, illustrations, text and themes, and their place within Seuss’ life and other works. She steps even further back and analyzes his work in the context of children’s literature overall. Ultimately, MacDonald concludes that Seuss “gave a new dignity and interest to the field of children’s literature”:

By bringing interesting reading materials to children, Seuss gave a new dignity and interest to the field of children’s literature. Simply because his books are not high li terature, and appear deceptively simple in both language and illustration, does not mean that there is no literary or artistic value to them or that they are effortless productions dashed off in a weekend. By putting such effort into his books, Seuss dignifies child readers and reading, giving them extraordinary efforts and excellent products. His massive popularity does not imply a crass diminution of his art. Being popular does not mean being second-rate. (169-170)

One little piece of information jumped out at me as I read. Since my thesis is on The Lorax anything that is in any way related to that book and Seuss’ view of the environment is of particular interest to me. While I knew that he drew political cartoons before he wrote and illustrated children’s books, I was startled to learn that from 1928 to 1941 he worked as an advertising cartoonist for Standard Oil. During his tenure at Standard Oil he designed the promotional campaign for Flit, an insecticide.

Initially, I could not wrap my head around this. Promoting the use of an insecticide seemed completely at odds with the message of The Lorax; how could the same man be behind both campaigns? I reminded myself that The Lorax was written 43 years after Seuss began working at Standard Oil, and that a lot can happen in 43 years. I doubt I will be the same person at 67 that I was at 24. I can’t reasonably expect another person to stay exactly the same, either.

Then it hit me: Flit the Insecticide and The Lorax are not at odds at all. The Lorax is a story about the heedless destruction of a flawless world. It is a story about unchecked greed and senseless consumerism. Above all, it is a story that longs for the return of a pristine world, a world where Bar-ba-loots play in the shade of Truffula Trees, where Humming-Fish hum and Swomee-Swans sing, where Truffulas grow tall and proud against a bright, clear sky. It is a world completely devoid of anything that might mar its perfection. Flit would be a welcome addition to this world, this Eden, for creepy-crawlies have no place here.

It seems surprising, then, that the figure of the Lorax is still the poster child for the environmental movement. Yes, he speaks for the trees. But what about everyone else?

Did I miss your review?  Let me know and I’ll make a list!

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Ahhh, a new year. That optimistic feeling that is so prevalent this time of year is so contagious that it has even drowned out my sarcastic, cynical side. All I can see before me is a year filled with piles of books I’ll positively love and the time to read every single one of them. 2010 sounds good already!

There are just some books that beg to be read in winter, so my January plans thus far are to curl up with books such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (I’m not usually much of a mystery reader, but I decided to take The Bibliophile’s Devotional‘s advice and read some more Sherlock Holmes; apparently this one is really good) and re-reading Jane Eyre. I also have another Newbery book to read: the 1928 award winner, Gay Neck: The Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji. (I’m really, really hoping the book is better than the title.) A group of us in the Children’s Books group on Goodreads are working our way through all the Newbery books (both the award winners and the honor books). We started last year with the first winner, The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem Van Loon (and yes, reading that was exhilarating). So far I’m less than impressed with the Newbery selections; of the six I’ve read I’ve only enjoyed one (The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting). I’ve vowed to stick with it, though. I figure if I can survive The Story of Mankind I can survive anything. So . . . bring on Gay Neck!

Also on January’s reading agenda is some thesis reading. The next book on my stack of Dr. Seuss biographies is Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel: A Biography by Judith Morgan. Before I read it I may go back and review Dr Seuss by Ruth K. MacDonald to refresh my memory and get myself back into a thesis frame of mind. I’ve been a bit of a slacker lately . . .

Coming soon: my selections for the What’s in a Name? reading challenge!

Happy reading,

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