Friday, March 07, 2008

Celebrating Dr. Seuss

Theodor Seuss Geisel - Dr. Seuss was born March 2, 1904, and in honor of that historic occasion numerous events have occurred and continue this week across the country. The good doctor's 104 birthday has been celebrated with readings, parties, classroom activities, art exhibits, and the upcoming release of the latest Seuss movie, Horton Hears A Who!

The Read Across America events (March 3) used Dr. Seuss as the focus point. Here in Denver, everyone from firefighters to local authors to politicians to moms from the neighborhood read to kids from the forty-four books written and illustrated by Seuss. I had the pleasure of trying to do justice to Green Eggs and Ham (voted by the kids as the book they wanted me to read) to a classy group of first graders at Fairmont Dual Immersion Academy in the historic Baker Neighborhood. They knew the book by heart, of course, and certainly appeared delighted with the book's fast-moving tale of Sam-I-Am's persistent efforts to introduce his friend to new experiences and adventures, and the friend's reluctance to think outside the box.

Meanwhile, Librería Martínez invites everyone to a special story time performance by students of the Santa Ana High School Drama Department in celebration of Dr. Seuss's Birthday this Saturday, March 8th @ 1:00 PM. This famous bookstore is located at 1110 N. Main Street, Santa Ana, CA. 714-973-7900 for more information.

One of my all-time favorite books, a book that I still read periodically, is If I Ran The Zoo. It's a book I remember reading very early in life and it stayed with me. I memorized several passages from it's pages, back when I used to do such things, and I always thought that young Gerald McGrew was the kind of kid I'd like to meet one day.

If I Ran The Zoo is a classic study of the power of imagination. The reality presented in this book is compelling, as any child's perspective must be, but it also challenges the reader to just sit back and soak it in; for adult readers that's called suspension of disbelief; I think kids simply say it's a good book.

Young Gerald McGrew, the hero of If I Ran The Zoo, suggests that the regular old zoo, although "pretty good," could use "something new."

"But if I ran the zoo,"
Said young Gerald McGrew,
"I'd make a few changes.
"That's just what I'd do. . ."

Who hasn't entertained such thoughts on any gray day when everything is too ordinary and boring? And what changes! No "old-fashioned" lions and tigers. In fact, Gerald would open the cages and let the animals go. Then the fun begins. From one strange land to another: Zomba-ma-Tant and Motta-fa-Potta-fa-Pell and the Far Western part of south-east North Dakota. From one very unique animal to quite another freaky beast: Joats, and Iotas, and the scraggle-foot Mulligatawny; Gussets, Gherkins, a Gasket and a Gootch. And, when required, elaborate contraptions to rein in the animals: the Cooker-mobile; the Bad-Animal-Catching-Machine ("rather expensive to build such a kit, but with it a hunter can never get bit"); and, of course, the Skeegle-mobile. As Gerald says, "If you want to catch beasts you don't see every day, you have to go places quite out-of-the-way."

It seems obvious, to me at least, that young Gerald McGrew exemplifies the writing spirit perfectly. Those of us who aspire to entertain readers with our written words often stare at old-fashioned reality and decide that it could use something new. Then, we go out and find it and bring it back for the readers who are willing to pay the admission charge and take a tour of our zoo. We introduce every strange animal we can capture, from the exotic lands that inhabit our minds, those places quite out-of-the-way, and we use extraordinary measures to bring back the catch: novels and poetry and short stories and essays and bedtime tales and scripts and blog scribbling. And then the payoff.

"WOW!" They'll all cheer,
"What this zoo must be worth!
It's the gol-darndest zoo
On the face of the earth!"

Thank you, Dr. Seuss.


1 comment:

msedano said...

Have you ever eaten green eggs? Most unpalatable. The Army cooks scrambled powdered eggs into a uniformly yellow mass, then loaded them into plastic insulated containers for the drive up the mountain. When we opened the containers, after the steam cleared, we would be treated to the sight of green eggs. The once-brown bacon had turned sickly white. It seems every GI on that mountain knew Dr. Seuss, and we all went around in a big unhappy bunch, looking for nice tender moose moss to munch but instead chowed down on green eggs and ham.