Prather’s Pick: Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss
February 27, 2018
On March 2, kids everywhere and the young-at-heart will celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday. So, in his honor of the famed children's author, this week's column features a book that was published after his death. It's "Dr. Seuss: Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!" with some help from Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith.
The book looked familiar to me when I started to thumb through it, and I have to admit, I may have reviewed it before. If I did, it's worth reviewing again. The story of how the book came to be is as interesting as the book itself.
In a section at the back of the book, Janet Schulman, editor at Random House, explained how it all started. In about 1988 or 1989, Theodor (Ted) Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was working on a book about a schoolteacher, but he told Schulman the teacher was "pretty different," and he didn't know if teachers would like his character. That was the last Schulman heard about it. Seuss's final work was "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"
Then, in 1991, after Dr. Seuss had died, Schulman requested notes on the "teacher book" from Seuss's secretary, Claudia Prescott. Prescott knew immediately it was the story about Miss Bonkers, a character, she remembered him saying, who was "driving him bonkers!" So, she sent the notes and sketches along to Schulman, and the reader can find them in the back section of the book.
The notes and sketches, complete with crossed out words and corrections, are fascinating. There's even a page of ideas for a school name, such as Zoofendorf Elementary or Zinzendorf School. This section of the book is absolutely fascinating.
Schulman later asked Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith to finish the book, "Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!" was born and Miss Bonkers "got to have her day in class."
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The story is told by one of the students of Diffendoofer School, located in the town of Dinkerville. He tells the reader about some of the teachers: Miss Bobble, Miss Wobble, Miss Fribble, Miss Quibble and Miss Viking, who teach everything from yelling to tying knots. But then, there's Miss Bonkers, who is different from the rest.
Miss Bonkers instructs frogs to dance, pigs to put on underpants and a duck to sing, and explains how to tell a cactus from a cow — and more. The kids love her.
One day, the principal, Mr. Lowe, appears with an announcement. It seems students from miles around are being required to take a test to see which school is best. If their school does poorly, the students will have to go to school at Flobbertown, where "everybody does the same." But Miss Bonkers says not to worry, even though the test is in 10 minutes.
Dr. Seuss lovers will enjoy this book — a lot — and there's a message for readers, too.
"Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!" costs $17 in hardcover. It is published by Alfred A. Knopf. You can also find the book at the Craig branch of the Moffat County Libraries.