October 3, 2013
by Rob Eckman
I am sorry that I missed last Thursday’s Seuss Family Story time, but thank you to all of the people who came the store to participate! The book that we were to read was “Fox in Socks,” and perhaps due to my imagination and creativity being completely freaked out over this small and unassuming book of KILLER tongue twisters, my body retaliated and came down with a nasty little cold bug.
You see, I sometimes trip over the pronunciation of my own name, which does not rhyme with anything. ”Fox in Socks” can bring a grown man to his stuttering knees. The book has a warning on the first page, for crying out loud: “Take it slowly. This book is DANGEROUS!”
Please come back today, Thursday, when we will read “Fox in Socks” together. My new plan of attack is that you are all going to read it with me! We will all be there to support each other and our twisted tongues.
If you need something to loosen up your jaw, practice this one from pages 58 and 59:
“When a fox is in the bottle where the tweetle beetles battle with their paddles in a puddle on a noodle-eating poodle, THIS is what they call … a tweetle beetle noodle poodle bottled paddled muddled duddled fuddled wuddled fox in socks, sir!”
Yes, and now you understand! See you tonight at 7!
October 1, 2013
by Rob Eckman
I could not avoid it forever. It is time to read The Dr. Seuss Book I Swore I Would Never Read Aloud. My children’s book nemesis. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Please take a knife and twist it into my back until I am dead.
This is why: This little, beguiling book is very, very difficult for me to read aloud. It just is. I have never read it at story hour, on purpose. I cannot even read it to myself out loud because before long I am shaking my head in frustration and just give up. For a tiny book it feels so LONG! It never seemed long when my mom read it to me. When I tell my friends who are parents that I am reading it this week they confess they used the hide the book to avoid reading it to their little ones. At least I am not alone.
I have rehearsed and rehearsed and as I get more comfortable with these 250 different words, I begin to see the progression of the book as a sort of vaudevillian show featuring a parade of characters including a narrator, a little boy and girl, and various other weird creatures with insane names, the most recurring of which is a shaggy and furry fellow with the ordinary name of Ned.
Poor Ned. Poor, long suffering Ned. Dear blogosphere, I ask you to consider Ned one of the great martyrs in literature. He appears on only three pages but does nothing but complain. I am no doctor but this is my mental diagnosis of Ned: He is a recluse because he never leaves his vermin-infested house and is probably a germaphobe because he only communicates by telephone. He must be an insomniac and is definitely passive aggressive. Poor, miserable Ned–if he could only step forward in time from 1960, he might at least get comfort knowing that he has the cellular option of telephone service versus his rodent-chomped landline. Poor Ned. Such pain and misery all packed into 98 monosyllabic words.
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish has sold more than six million copies since being published in 1960.
August 27, 2013
by Rob Eckman
One of the most important books in the Dr. Seuss canon is “The Cat in the Hat.”
The literary and cultural influence of this little blue-and-red book cannot be overstated. As it happened, in 1955, a popular book by Rudolf Flesch called “Why Johnny Can’t Read” was turning a nationwide illiteracy problem into a national scandal. One of the apparent culprits was children’s school primers, which experts complained were filled with “abnormally courteous, unnaturally clean boys and girls.” They complained the books were “uniform, bland, idealized and terribly literal.”
A very good friend of Ted Geisel suggested that he write a book for six- and seven-year-olds who had already mastered the mechanics of reading. Armed with a list of 225 words (Ted was initially unhappy that the list did not include the words “queen” or “zoo”), Dr. Seuss spent two long years spinning the words into a book that would quickly transform the children’s book industry and revolutionize the way we learned to read.
Here are some fun facts about the words used in “The Cat in the Hat”:
-The story is 1,629 words long.
-It utilizes a vocabulary of only 236 distinct words, of which 54 occur once and 33 twice.
-Only a single word (“another”) has three syllables.
-14 words have two syllables.
-221 are monosyllabic.
-The longest words in the book are “something” and “playthings.”
Finally, to answer the question that I know is on all of your minds: where did Ted get the idea for the cat we all know and love? That tall, lanky bipedal feline with the striped stovepipe hat and crazy three-loop bow tie? Ted always said that the image was drawn from a funny-looking elevator operator at the Random House offices in New York. A small, stooped woman wearing “a leather half-glove and a secret smile.”
There you go!
August 27, 2013
by Rob Eckman
All I can say is, this is one satisfied customer! She tried so hard to stay awake. Somehow, Grace managed to fall asleep during “Green Eggs and Ham,” one of my loudest readings!
August 16, 2013
In July of 1949, Ted Geisel was invited to lecture at a ten-day writers conference at the University of Utah. What company he was in? Vladimir Nabokov and Wallace Stegner. Ted prepared as never before for the visit to Utah by making extensive lecture notes and researching for weeks because he felt that children’s books needed nonsense, excitement, and fantasy and that his voice could help new writers pave the way. He gave lectures and six workshops. He told his audiences, “Why write about the clouds above fairyland when you have better clouds of Utah!”
The writers stayed in a sorority house and played in the pool in the afternoons. He laughed and cavorted with his new literary chums.
After his first lecture, he met Salt Lake City teacher Libby Childs, who asked what they could do to make Ted’s stay happier. He wanted to go to the Great Salt Lake to swim. “I need to know what it feels like”, he told Mrs. Childs. When her three-year-old son, Brad, recited all of “Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose” for him, Ted replied, “I don’t write for kids that young, how does he do it?”
The lasting effects of his Utah visit left Ted exhilarated and wanting to write a textbook on children’s book writing.
Did you know that Dr. Seuss had visited Utah in 1949? Wouldn’t it be a treat to find someone with personal or family stories about this bright and important time in Dr. Seuss’s life?