What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that we found no objectionable content in this book. This story celebrates the vivid use of the imagination, suggesting how it can be spawned by unorthodox teaching and used to defeat lockstep obedience.
What's the story?
Diffendoofer School is an offbeat academy. "Miss Bobble teaches listening, / Miss Wobble teaches smelling, / Miss Fribble teaches laughing, / And Miss Quibble teaches yelling."
Students are taught how to tell a cactus from a cow, tie knots in noodles, saddle a lizard, and use their melons to the utmost--namely, to think, and think fresh.
School principal Mr. Lowe announces the grim news that students must take a standardized test and that if they do poorly, their school "will be torn down, / And you will have to go to school / In dreary Flobbertown," where the school is a totalitarian, conformist institution.
Since Diffendoofers have been encouraged to think, they ace the test and belt out the old school song: "You're gribbulous, you're grobbulous, / Each day we love you more. / You are the school we treasure / And unceasingly adore." The afterword includes Seuss's original sketches and a history of the project.
Is it any good?
This is not a Dr. Seuss book: It is a Prelutsky/Smith book with material inspired by Dr. Seuss' rough draft and enhanced by a host of Seussian visual touches. Lane Smith and Jack Prelutsky were asked to finish the 14 pages of rough sketches and verse, and the result is this bouncy, jangly, inspirational tip of the hat to eccentricity told in verse and illustrated with skittish delight. For Dr. Seuss fiends, the gold mine here is the afterword, written by the good doctor's editor, Janet Schulman, and the reproduction of Seuss' original pages.
The artwork is filled with creepy characters and dreamy landscapes that readers have come to enjoy from Smith, but it is more self-conscious than Dr. Seuss's satirical strokes. The verse is energized and melodious but more deliberate in its message and tone than the doctor's subtle storytelling. Smith and Seuss' art share the same page, giving off a modest tension, if not sparks.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about the way conformity is questioned in the poem and the surreal and wildly expressive illustrations. What do you think of the way students are taught here? Would you like to be taught that way? Dr. Seuss' drafts at the end of the book are fun to examine.