By Rob Eckman
I was raised by book-loving parents who read me lots of books and so it somehow seemed inevitable that I would find myself as an adult, reading stories to children at bookshop story hours. I have been reading aloud to children, practicing really, for more than twelve years now and I have read to thousands of Salt Lake City children in schools and at festivals and of course, at The Kings English Book shop every Thursday at 11:00 a.m.
I learned that I could read Dr. Seuss books in an unusual and crowd-pleasing way about the same time the storytime kids did. I can keep the attention of a room of three-year-olds for 45 minutes of Dr. Seuss–not just the short and snappy “Green Eggs and Ham,” but also some of his “parades of creatures” as I call them, like “If I Ran the Circus” and “On Beyond Zebra.” I now specialize in reading Dr. Seuss and am excited to read them all out loud!
The Kings English will host a weekly Dr. Seuss family story hour, where I will read ALL of his books, chronologically, over the course of two or three months. I want to not only read all of the books aloud (some I had never read before myself), but share some anecdotes from Ted Geisel’s personal life.
Thursday, July 11: WEEK ONE
“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” 1937, is fun to read yet I can easily understand why so many publishers originally passed on this book. “Dr. Seuss,” who up until this time was known as an advertising illustrator, was trying to sell a most unusual book: a story about an unpredictable child telling unpredictable tall tales. Dick and Jane were going to be furious! The book was finally picked up by Vanguard Press after at least 26 refusals (numbers vary greatly) and this simple book changed the course of children’s literature forever.
The story is told from the breathless voice of Marco, who cooks up quite a spectacle to tell his father about once he gets home from school. Read it breathlessly–you are playing Marco and you just saw an elephant and two zebras pulling god-know-what down the street to the jubilant cheers of the town mayor and confetti-laden aircraft! Get excited when you read it!
“The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins” was next, published in 1938. It was very hard for me to read out loud because it was written in prose instead of rhyme and it is a long story. The story contains visual gags that must be read and described, and there are a few secondary characters that slow the reading down even more. So I left out several bits in the reading. Sorry, Ted, but the Dark Magic bit had to go.
Next week, “The King’s Stilts,” “Horton Hatches the Egg,” and “McElligot’s Pool.”