Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Boy On Fairfield Street

Krull, Kathleen. 2004. THE BOY ON FAIRFIELD STREET: HOW TED GEISEL GREW UP TO BECOME DR. SEUSS. by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. New York: Random House. ISBN 0375822984

THE BOY ON FAIRFIELD STREET is a look at the life of Ted Geisel growing up before he was known as Dr. Seuss in Springfield, Massachusetts. Ted grew up in a cozy home with his father and mother, and sister Marnie. From a very young age Ted Geisel loved to visit the zoo, where his father worked, and listen to silly stories at bedtime that his mother would create. Once he entered school most of the students and teachers didn’t understand his passion of drawing and doodling but this rejection never stopped him. He surprised many by attending Dartmouth College and writing for the school’s humor magazine, JACK-O-LANTERN. While attending Oxford University Ted Geisel got him first encouraging words about his drawings which led him to leave school and pursue his passion of funny drawings and articles. By the age of twenty-two Ted Geisel “future looked bright.” Additional pages are included that completes Ted Geisel life “Beyond Fairfield Street” and a complete bibliography on works written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss.

THE BOY ON FAIRFIELD STREET is a wonderful biography of one of the most loved children’s author and illustrator, Dr. Seuss. Kathleen Krull gives the reader an insight on how Ted Geisel grew up and where he got most of his inspiration from. The words used to tell this biography are very simple yet descriptive, “..stubborn bears and chattering monkeys, prowling lions and wild wolves.” I also like that Krull digs deep into Ted Geisel life and shows that he struggled with prejudice, injustice, and bullying growing up as a child.

The accuracy of the information used in the book all seems to be valid. Krull does include a short bibliography of websites she used for this book that I went and researched out. Most of the websites are still active and contain the same information if not more that Krull uses in this book. There are also suggestions for further reading that include other biographies of Ted Geisel’s life. One of my favorite things about this book is the illustrations from Dr. Seuss books on each page of Krull’s book. It gives the book a childlike feeling and a sense of nostalgia. Krull includes a list at the end of the book that tells readers which book of Dr. Seuss that illustration came from.

The layout of this picture book biography is in sequential order of the Ted Geisel life. It begins with him as a little boy and then by the ending he is a full grown man. Although you could open up the book and begin reading from any page, I would say that to get the most benefit from this book a reader would need to start from the beginning page. The organization of events is very clear and easy to follow as you read through the book. There are no subheading or table of contents in this book, but be looking at the pictures of Ted Geisel you can easily determine what part of his life you are reading about: young, school aged, or adult. For example, if you flipped to page 11 you would see Ted Geisel reading in bed with his mother and toy dog. Then turning to page 31 Ted is sitting on a bench with a coat and tie on writing in a journal as he speaks to a young woman.

The cover of the book in my opinion targets older readers because of the style of the illustration and font used. Most picture books have a bright, fun colorful picture on the front that would grab a child’s eye, but this cover is simple and somewhat deceiving. Just looking at the picture you would think this is a story about a young by and the animals in his neighborhood not about the life of Dr. Seuss. The text is also very simple yet easy to read.

The illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher are both accurate and detailed. As you look over the book a second and third time you see things in the picture you didn’t see the first time. On page 27, Ted Geisel is sitting at his desk in the Dartmouth magazine room and when looking closer at his desk you see that he has drawn pictures on his desk of funny animals. The illustrations also reflect the text very well, which allows you understand what phase of life Ted Geisel is in. Once again I also think that adding Dr. Seuss original art on each page gives the book a fun, childlike feeling as you read it.

* Kirkus Reviews- “Some of these original images are absolutely haunting; the magic of his name will make this a huge hit, but it's the lively writing that puts the hat on the cat.”
* School Library Journal- “Johnson and Fancher's lovely, full-page illustrations are supplemented by samples of Dr. Seuss's artwork, including scenes from The Cat and the Hat and The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. A complete list of Seuss's titles, in chronological order, rounds out the title…. Krull's work is a terrific look at the boyhood of one of the most beloved author/illustrators of the 20th century.”
* Publishers Weekly- “A four-page addendum, presented in a smaller font, chronicles the highlights of Dr. Seuss's publishing career and provides intriguing tidbits about the creation of some of his beloved books. Johnson and Fancher's (New York's Bravest) representational, nostalgic paintings effectively evoke both the period and Geisel's appealingly puckish personality.”
* Children’s Literature- “Kids who doodle when they are supposed to be doing something else will find redemption in the story of Ted Geisel's childhood. Geisel's doodles weren't appreciated when he was a child either…. Overall, the book is a perfect reminder to teachers of how powerfully early experiences can shape our lives as adults and to kids that a favorite author was once a child himself.”

* Read other biographies from Kathleen Krull:
- ISAAC NEWTON ISBN 9780142408209
* Read ROAD TO OZ: TWISTS, TURNS, BUMPS, AND TRIUMPHS IN THE LIFE OF L. FRANK BAUM by Kathleen Krull. ISBN 9780375832161. Then compare and contrast the lives of famous authors L. Frank Baum and Ted Geisel.
* Make a timeline of Ted Geisel life and when his books were published.

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