March 2 is the debut for the film version of The Lorax, the date Dr. Seuss would have turned 108, and the 15th annual Read Across America Day--a recipe for, as Theodor Geisel might say, “biggering” the number of bookworms in the United States.
“What we’re looking at right now is the perfect Seuss storm,” says Kate Klimo, v-p and publisher of Random House/Golden Books Young Readers Group and v-p and director of creative development for Random House Children’s Entertainment, “in the sense that you’ve got the Lorax movie, you’ve got the Cat in the Hat TV show, and you have PBS Kids and all the PBS affiliates participating in Read Across America this year.” The Seuss estate is even doing a To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street 75th-anniversary mall tour. “There’s all of this cross-pollination,” says Klimo. “We’ve sold more of The Lorax this year than in the last three years combined – and one of those years was the [40th] anniversary.”
Here’s a look at some Read Across America and Seuss-related events.
The Lorax Movie
On Friday, Universal is releasing The Lorax, a 94-minute 3D animated film starring the voices of Zac Efron (a 12-year-old boy added to the movie version of the story) and Danny DeVito (the Lorax); see PW’s Movie Alert, which contains more film details, here. “With the film, so many more people are aware of this book and what the character of the Lorax represents,” says Susan Brant, president of licensing and marketing for Dr. Seuss Enterprises. (She declined to comment on whether Dr. Seuss Enterprises is planning a new The Cat in the Hat Comes Back movie next.)
In The Lorax, published in 1971, Geisel promoted conservation and warned against chopping down trees and unnecessary consumption. “He was ahead of his time,” Klimo says. For the movie release and for Earth Day, Random House distributed Lorax-themed educational kits to more than 20,000 educators and at more than 3,500 stores. In January Random House released The Lorax Pop-Up!, by paper engineer David A. Carter, who is starting a book tour on March 2 at the Barnes & Noble in Beaverton, Ore. Though it tried to, the publisher couldn’t use recovered fibers for the Carter title. “You can’t make a pop-up out of recycled paper,” says Klimo. “It would sag down instead of pop up.” The bestselling Seuss titles of all time: Green Eggs and Ham, followed by The Cat in the Hat, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, and Hop on Pop. Random House and Dr. Seuss Enterprises will be giving a full Seuss library to each school on the National Education Association’s Read Across America tour.
Seuss Book Apps
To celebrate the release of the movie and also Seuss’s birthday, Oceanhouse Media is dropping the price of its book app of The Lorax to 99 cents. “We’re doing it in celebration of the launch of the movie, even though we’re not directly affiliated with the movie,” says Oceanhouse president Michel Kripalani. It’s also giving away its Lorax Garden game for free, and reducing prices on other Theodor Geisel stories. The digital books come with three options – the movie-like “auto play” (for younger readers), “read to me” (for users who want to listen to the story and see words highlighted as they’re read), and “read it myself” (for users who want the book in its traditional format).
Over the past two and a half years (beginning with How the Grinch Stole Christmas), Oceanhouse has created apps for 26 of the 44 original Dr. Seuss titles and has sold more than 1 million Dr. Seuss apps in the Apple store. Last week Oceanhouse released Oh Say Can You Say Di-no-saur?, the second title (after There's No Place Like Space!) in its new line based on the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library.
This year National Education Association officials, who dreamed up the idea for a Read Across America Day tied to Seuss’s birthday back in 1997, got Efron and DeVito to agree to read at a New York Public Library event on Friday, March 2. Kids from five New York City schools will attend. (Efron and DeVito also shot two public service announcements for the NEA.)
The NEA’s Read Across America program has expanded to include sponsors such as Mazda (which is giving $1,000 to $1,500 to each of the school libraries on the NEA tour), Facebook fan and cause pages, a Read Across America video channel on schooltube.com, and more than 50 national “partners and supporters” from PBS to the YMCA.
Some cities, such as Hermosa, Calif., are encouraging everyone in town to participate in Read Across America activities, which may include anything from dying hair green to making truffula trees to simply reading The Lorax. Some NEA programs, such as Indiana’s, are partnering with sports teams to get professional athletes such as the Pacers to read in schools. In other cities, teachers and students post Read Across America-themed videos. (Two years ago a middle school put up a YouTube video of “Gotta Keep Reading” to the tune of the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling,” notes Anita Merina, coordinator of NEA’s Read Across America event. Nearly a half million people have viewed it.)
On Friday Martha Stewart is airing a Seuss-themed show, complete with a green eggs and ham cooking segment and a kid-filled audience. Klimo, who taped the episode this past Tuesday, says everyone (except Stewart) wore a Cat in the Hat hat. “People like to wear the hat – even though it gives them ‘cat hair,’ ” says Klimo.
The American Library Association is not coordinating a nationwide push, but individual libraries are embracing Read Across America Day and Seussian celebrations. “It’s important that there’s a day that’s just about the sheer joy of reading,” says Kiera Parrott, head of children’s services at the Darien, Conn., public library, where this week librarians and kids created a gigantic truffula tree. For the rest of the week, children who read books in the library get their names placed on it. (This Thursday afternoon the kids may choose to read their books with Skye or Brazil, two trained therapy dogs.) Parrott also loves the chance to highlight winners of the Geisel Award, a prize announced each year at the American Library Association’s midwinter meeting. She prepared for Friday by ordering extra copies of Seuss titles, especially The Lorax.
National Reading Month
Some groups are also tying their pro-reading efforts to National Reading Month, which takes place in March. In Maryland, the nonprofit Weinberg Foundation is working with Baltimore Reads on a book drive for four school libraries it is renovating as part of a $1 million library project. On March 2, the governor himself is bringing a wheelbarrow-full of books to a library being renovated as part of Weinberg's Library Project, and one of Weinberg’s program directors is dressing up as the Cat in the Hat.
To support the NEA’s campaign, Target workers volunteered to read to kids at all 1,750 U.S. stores from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 25. Kids scored reusable blue Lorax bags with crayons, a coloring sheet, and a stick-on Lorax mustache inside. (Target started working with Read Across America in 2003.)