Some Spectacular Stuff Seuss Said

Published July 27, 2012 by chantellesblogforchildrensliterature

Whether you are young or old or somewhere in between Seuss offered every person “big or small” great advice and ideals to live by. Although it does not directly pertain to illustrations I feel as though this blog would not be complete without adding a few of my most favourite quotes, or in other words Seuss’ equipment for living.

1. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
–Dr. Seuss “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”
2. “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
–Dr. Seuss
3. “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
― Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You!
4. “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
― Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who!
5. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
6. “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!”
― Dr. Seuss
7. “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
― Dr. Seuss
8. “They say I’m old-fashioned, and live in the past, but sometimes I think progress progresses too fast!”
― Dr. Seuss
Perhaps if people, and by people I mean adult people paid a little more attention to what was taught to them when they were children the world would be a much better place. I try my best to live by these quotes, and although most of them are quite humourous the meanings behind them are not. On the first day of my Children’s Literature class we were all asked to introduce ourselves and say our favourite children’s book. When it was my turn to speak I said my name and said “anything by Dr. Seuss” and my professor immediately apologized for not including anything by Seuss in the syllabus, but not because his work was unworthy of discussion, but because it deserves a course all its own, I would have to say that I totally agree! While doing some research for this blog I came across numerous other Seuss bloggers and one who was actually taking a graduate level Dr. Seuss class, needless to say that definitely sparked my attention!

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; Dr. Seuss’ Many Uses

Published July 27, 2012 by chantellesblogforchildrensliterature

Dr. Seuss’ illustrations do far more than simply help to tell the story, in fact they are the story. Seuss would often write books with challenges in mind, as an example when writing “Green Eggs and Ham”he was challenged to write an entire story using only fifty words as many times as he would like (Moje, and Shyu 670-676). Most of Seuss’ books started off as word banks and were connected and grouped by listing words that rhymed (Moje, and Shyu 670-676). The Cat in the Hat was created this way, according to Seuss he had a list on his desk and when trying to create a character the words “cat” and “hat” popped out at him. He then drew a sketch of what a cat in a hat may look like and the rest as they say is history(Moje, and Shyu 670-676).

Many of the stories that Seuss wrote followed a rhythm and word pattern, this is sometimes why some words are made up. Seuss explained once that he keeps a “special dictionary” of all of his made up names of animals and places for quick spelling reference (Schroth 748-750). Personally I would love to get my hands on that dictionary! The point is, that because some words are made up, and others are simply used and repeated again and again to keep within word limits and rhyming restrictions, the illustrations end up playing a central role in a lot of his work. Like Sendak mentioned in his video about illustrations, they tend to tell a whole other version of a story.

Dr. Seuss reading “The Cat in the Hat”

One of my favourite Seuss books has always been “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish”  is such a great story for children to aid in learning numbers and colours and teaches children to spot and notice differences. I think that Seuss has done an amazing job of innovatively teaching children such skills. It is important to be innovative and creative when teaching children, things should constantly be changing and keeping their attention. Seuss does an excellent job of doing just that. I noticed when reading this story again recently that it flows similarity to how Christina Rossetti’s “Sing Song”  does, of course the poems and language are very different, but what is the same is how the book seems to work. Seuss’ books are usually quite long and some of his stories seem to make little sense together other than that they are in the same binding and perhaps contain one or two central characters. In this story for instance the “we” are the two children who travel throughout the book telling you what they see, have seen and own. “Sing Song” is a great collection of poems that are bound together by one author, and each poem has a corresponding illustration, and some of Seuss’ stories seem to follow a similar set up.

Below is a youtube reading of Dr. Seuss’ “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish”  incase you are unfamiliar with the story or have not read/heard it in a while, or if you are like me, because it makes great Friday night entertainment.

Another story that is very similar as far as style is “Hop on Pop” which is essentially another book with a seemingly random story line, but is a great book for helping children learn how to read. The pictures help to tell what the story is about and because the story rhymes children can sometimes guess the word or phrase that is to come next. I remember “Hop on Pop” being the first book I ever read by myself with relatively good success.

“Hop on Pop”

While doing some Seuss research I found a dictionary containing all or at least most of the words Seuss used in his work and their meanings. If you would like to take a look at this extensive, and amazing resource click here. I found that this resource was very fun to look at and read, and it is so incredibly detailed and perfect.

From ‘Thing 1 and Thing 2’ come ‘Wild Things’

Published July 27, 2012 by chantellesblogforchildrensliterature

Dr. Seuss was an inspiration to both young and old. His books made people think, and imagine things in very bazaar a peculiar ways. He is truly a ‘non-sense’ writer. Seuss’ stories inspired other writers as well, Maurice Sendak as an example was one of his many pupils. Sendak once discribed Seuss as a “Michief- maker and revolutionary” who was “on the side of the kids” (Moje, and Shyu 670-676). He called him “the big-papa” and adds that much of his own inspiration for his children’s stories were drawn from early work of Dr. Seuss (Moje, and Shyu 670-676).

Sendak’s style of illustration for “Where The Wild Things Are” is very unique, and recognizable, much like Seuss’ style which is also recognizable and unique. Sendak uses a variety of mediums in his illustrations including coloured pen and ink, as we see in “Where The Wild Things Are” but in other illustrations he has used watercolour and pen.

Most of Seuss’ earlier work was a mixture of coloured pencil and watercolours. He later moved on to pen and ink techniques and usually only used two or three colours. His latest work included a lot many more colours.

Below is a video that I found on youtube where Sendak is discussing why he is an illustrator.

In the above video Sendak mentions that he would not enjoy reading any of his favourite novels if they contained illustrations. I am not sure that I would agree with this point. Personally I like when novels are illustrated. Take for example the illustrations in “Alice in Wonderland”, without the wonderful illustrations I am unsure that the book would have the same impact upon its readers. The illustrations are black and white which leave the appropriate amount of room for interpretation and imagination. “Alice in Wonderland” may not be the best possible example as it too is a children’s book, but it is also a novel which can easily be enjoyed by an adult. There are many complex ideas and messages in “Alice in Wonderland” and so therefore I believe it is a good example of a novel working well with the use of illustrations. John Tenniel's Mad Hatter

Sendak also pointed out that illiustrations tell a larger story than just words alone, I would have to agree with that. In class we did a great exercise where we were asked to listen to “Where The Wild Things Are” with our eyes focusing completely on the words, then we discussed how that activity felt. Most people said the story was somewhat boring and uninteresting with out the pictures. The second part of  the activity included looking at the pictures and not the words (a great way to experience a book at a child’s perspective I might add) while our professor read the story one more. Afterwards we discussed once more what we thought of the story and most opinions changed, this time saying that the book was much more interesting and easier to connect with and attach to.

Puss in Boots? How About a Cat in a Hat?

Published July 20, 2012 by chantellesblogforchildrensliterature

 The Cat in the Hat is possibly the most recognizable Dr. Seuss character there is. He is basically the trademark for Dr. Seuss. He is a mischief causing cat that is always traditionally stirring up trouble and then fixing the trouble he has caused. In the illustration off to the side one can see just how much of a handful this cat really is. Being “The Cat in the Hat” has really proven to be quite the juggling act. This cat proved to be a hassle for Seuss as well, “Writing such a book was apparently so difficult that Seuss almost gave up. The popular story behind the writing of this book says that in frustration Seuss was looking through discarded sketches when he happened to spot one of a cat. Seuss took another look at the word list and two words which rhymed jumped out at him: cat and hat”(Moje, and Shyu 670-676).

Not just your ordinary feline

Thankfully Seuss didn’t give up, instead he created what is possibly one of the most famous children’s stories of all time. The cat is very symbolic of everything Seuss, he is quirky, fun and full of creativity. I mean who else could clean a rug with a wall? 

Prior to taking this Children’s literature class I was not very familiar with Puss in Boots, in fact most of my knowledge of the character was attributed to Shrek. After reading the Puss in Boots story for class and learning how much of a trickster figure he really is I wondered if perhaps there was any connection between Seuss’ Cat in the Hat and Puss in his boots? Cat’s traditional role is to stir up and fix messes that he ultimately causes all in the name of fun whereas Puss’ role is tricking and manipulating to get what he wants, both are very likable characters even though they seem to be trouble makers.

Recently there has been an addition to the televised cartoon world with the introduction of “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That” which is essentially a newer version of “The Magic School Bus.” Instead of Ms. Frizzle you have the Cat (voiced by Martin Short) who plays the part of ‘ignorant’ supervisor, instead of a class of children you have neighbours Nick and Sally, rather than a pet iguana there’s the pet fish and lastly the ‘magic school bus’ that changes size, form and function is replaced by a ‘thing-a-majigger’ that essentially does the same thing. The only real difference between the two shows is that The Cat in the Hat seems to focus its learning on plants and animals, whereas the Magic School Bus was open to anything Science. 

The Cat in the Hat knows A Lot About That has come out nearly 19 years after the passing of Dr. Seuss, yet still does an excellent job of holding true to its creators vision. Many of the same lines are used from the original book such as “your mother will not mind at all if you do” which is said by the cat to Nick and Sally before any adventure, at which they immediately ask their mother(s) if it is okay that they go to “such and such” place. What is best in my opinion is how great the illustrations are, I think that the creators of the show have done an excellent job of keeping the illustrations very “Seuss” like, in fact why don’t you take a look at the video below and judge for yourself.

I think it is clear that after looking at the show there is one main difference between Seuss’ vision of the cat and the new cat used in “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That” this new cat is a lot less mischievous. He spends his time learning and helping rather than causing trouble. I wonder how Seuss would feel about this. In The Cat in the Hat stories by Seuss the Cat is a menace and not liked by the fish, in fact the fish warns the children that “this cat should not be here when your mother is out.” Whereas in the new adaptation of this classic tale the fish is all for the cat and both Nick and Sally are happy to see him. I suppose that like anything else things change with time. Perhaps Seuss would have welcomed the change, and now “good doing” cat. Comparing newer cartoons with cartoons from the 1950’s and 60’s is somewhat shocking anyhow, what was acceptable then would never be acceptable now. As an example the Sesame Street clip that we watched in class about the little boy who got lost would probably never be aired along with the “Play With Me Sesame” shows of today. Perhaps the change in the cat’s attitude and personality are not surprising at all.

Below are two video’s, one is the Sesame Street clip that was shown in class, and the other is a clip from the “new” Sesame Street. I thought it would be fun to watch both and compare how far this children’s show has come, and perhaps because of its flexibility toward change. I do not think it is necessarily a bad thing that the idea behind the Cat changed in the new televised show, I think like anything else, in order to progress and move forward one has to be willing to adapt and change. Even if the cat changed Seuss’ overall goal of entertaining children has remained the same.

Inside Dr. Seuss’ Imagination “Buckle Up”

Published July 5, 2012 by chantellesblogforchildrensliterature

How else could a Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz possibly look?

As a child I remember my favourite stories being anything by Dr. Seuss. I loved the illustrations and listening to my Mother try her best to pronounce funny words like “rink rinker fink, diffendoofer and zizzer-zazzer-zuzz.” I now read these stories to my daughter and it is so much fun to hear her try and pronounce some of these fun words herself. What is even more incredible than these words is Dr. Seuss’ interpretation of how these things would look, whether they are machinery, “people” animals, or places they somehow turn out looking exactly as they should.

Take for instance this ” Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz” how else would you imagine a Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz to look? Of course she would have a checkered purple and white body and beautiful red hair, and yellow eyes.  I believe illustrations to be the common language for all children. It does not matter if a child is young, or old, or what language he or she speaks, one thing that all children, and people in general can understand and relate to are images. Children can tell stories by using pictures, whether they have heard a story or not if it has images they can tell you what they believe the story to be about, and that is amazing. When teaching young children I always enjoy asking them to make a story or a book using only pictures. Their illustrations tell their stories, and much like Seuss’ interpretation of certain animals, people or machinery, children draw their own interpretations, and most are usually just as remarkable. I remember asking a young person what her drawing was after she gave it to me and I couldn’t make out a single thing and she continued to tell me that there was a fire truck and a house and a dog and a hamburger and a variety of other things. I was amazed that all of those things were apparently in this picture of lines and scribbles. Illustrations are a great starting point for children when they are learning to read. Pictures help to keep a childs focus and also helps to expand their imagination. Even now as an adult my favourite part of a children’s story are always the pictures, they offer so many more words.

In an article I found titled “Oh the Places You’ve Taken Us: RT’s Tribute to Dr. Seuss” there are examples of a few letters that were sent to Seuss from children who had read his books. One child asked Suess “Dear Dr. Seuss, you sure thunk up a lot of funny books. You sure thunk up a million funny animals….Who thunk you up, Dr. Seuss?” to which Seuss replied “My animals look the way they do because I can’t draw.” To view this highly entertaining article for yourself click here.

Seuss’ first published Children’s book

Why did Seuss write and draw the way he did? Was is because as he claimed he could not draw? I don’t think so, according to my research Suess chose to leave Oxford University to persue an art career, he enjoyed drawing and his artistic style has remained the same from his first published childrens story titled “And to Think That I saw it on Mulberry Street” in 1937. The Seuss style was born fully developed: looping, free-style drawings; clanging, infectious rhymes; and a relentless logic”

“And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street”