HOORAY FOR DIFFENDOOFER DAY!

When Theodor Geisel died in 1991, he had left behind a half-sketched idea for a book, an ode to joy and eccentricity in education. Enter the nimble Prelutsky and dexterous Smith to finish the project, about a school run by a gaggle of latitudinarians—“Miss Bobble teaches listening,/Miss Wobble teaches smelling,/Miss Fribble teaches laughing,/And Miss Quibble teaches yelling.” Their charges take to the curriculum likes bees to honey, until the dour principal Mr. Lowe (“We think he wears false eyebrows. In fact, we’re sure it’s so. We’ve heard he takes them off at night . . . I guess we’ll never know”) informs them that they must pass a standardized test, or the school will be closed and the students shuffled off to dreary Flobbertown. They pass muster, wholesale, and send choruses of the “Diffendoofer Song” to the heavens. The magic here is in the marriage of Seuss, Prelutsky, and Lane: The Prelutsky voice is delightfully obvious, but he has blended whole slices of Seussian verse into his lines, while Smith has laced the crazy, deliciously colored artwork with cameos of characters and books that any of Dr. Seuss’s fans will recognize. A lengthy afterword (containing reproductions of Geisel’s early drafts) by his editor, Janet Schulman, explains how the book evolved. It’s a model collaboration, because the spirits involved—including Schulman’s—are so obviously kindred. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-89008-4

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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