Monday, October 27, 2008

The Boy on Fairfield Street - Genre 4 Nonfiction and Biography

Krull, Kathleen. 2004. The boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel grew up to become Dr. Seuss. Ill. by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. New York: Random House. ISBN 0375822984
Plot Summary
Kathleen Krull gives the history of Dr. Seuss' boyhood, formative years growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts. She tells of his family and his surroundings. Krull shows how many of the events of his school years shaped and led to his future accomplishments. Johnson and Fancher's paintings are paired with Seuss' own drawings to further tie the real and imagined worlds together.

The actual story of the book ends when Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) leaves home to begin his career with only hints of what is to come. The author answers the readers' remaining questions in a section labeled 'On Beyond Fairfield Street.' The author also includes a list of Dr. Seuss' books as well as some other resources that give information about Dr. Seuss.
Critical Analysis
This biography provides wonderful insight into the youth of the beloved children's book author, Dr. Seuss. The reader is able to get a sense of and therefore relate to how young Ted was a fairly typical boy with a strong family support system, but sometimes felt out of place. Krull also subtly ties in some of the plots and characters of Dr. Seuss' books to actual events in his life. While there aren't a lot of direct correlations of his life to his stories, the biography is a good example of how our experiences shape our future.

The paintings accompanying the text help create the time frame of the story as well as illustrate various moments in Dr. Seuss' life. The small illustrations taken from Dr. Seuss' work that are sprinkled throughout the book also add interest but rarely support the text.
Professional Review Excerpts
from Young doodlers and dreamers of the world, take heart--the famous Dr. Seuss, creator of Whos and Sneetches, was a doodler and dreamer, too. Kathleen Krull's engaging picture-book biography of Ted Geisel, the real Dr. Seuss, takes us from his early childhood on Fairfield Street in Springfield, Massachusetts, to the time when he's 22 years old in Greenwich Village and just starting to think he might make a go of it as a person who draws flying cows. Krull tells a lively story, carefully including details that help us understand how Seuss became Seuss, from playground injustice (Geisel was a German American and World War I loomed large) to his love for Krazy Kat comics.
Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, who also illustrated Seuss's My Many Colored Days, cast Seuss's childhood in a nostalgic light with lovely, old-fashioned paintings. A four-page section in the back picks up Seuss's story again, taking us to 1937 when he launches his children's book career with And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and all the way to his death in 1991. A complete list of Seuss's books and recommendations for further research closes this fascinating look at one of America's most beloved creators of children's books.
from Booklist Before Geisel became Dr. Seuss, he was a boy who "feasted on books and was wild about animals." This introductory sentence begins a delightful picture-book biography about Geisel that chronicles how he became an innovative writer and illustrator beloved by readers young and old. Born in 1904 to a mother who enjoyed reading and a father who worked at the zoo in Springfield, Massachusetts, Geisel spent his days doodling, hanging out with friends, and generally fooling around. Yet there were also some difficult moments. His German heritage made him a target for teasing at the advent of World War I; he was also a rule breaker and was told by his teacher that he would never get anywhere with his art. The book ends when Geisel, already a published cartoonist, is 22, living in Greenwich Village, and looking forward to a bright future. An extended author's note details how Geisel became Dr. Seuss and discusses a number of his works. Krull's pithy text is extended by full-page paintings that glow with the memory of yesteryear and capture the mix of humor and poignancy that comes with trying to fit in. Spot art from Geisel's own books enlivens the text pages.
~ This biography could be used in a study of Dr. Seuss and his many books.
~ This book, or at least excerpts of it, could be used by a counselor helping students understand the emotions of childhood - how to fit in, what to do when you don't fit in, how to handle embarrassing and disappointing situations, etc.

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