Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!
Dr Seuss / Author, Jack Prelutsky / Joint Author, Lane Smith / Illustra
Dr. Seuss's name towers over the title on the jacket here, setting up readers to measure the book within--extrapolated from scanty manuscript and sketches--against the late artist's classic works. While such a comparison is almost certain to disappoint, it also distracts from an appreciation of the fruitful collaboration between the ebullient Prelutsky (The Dragons Are Singing Tonight) and the innovative Smith (The Stinky Cheese Man). Given some rough art and verses and a list of characters that were compiled by Seuss in 1988 or 1989, Prelutsky and Smith fashion a plot, message and visual milieu (see Children's Books, Feb. 9). Zesty rhymes, some of them Seuss's own, catalogue the eccentric staff of Diffendoofer School. Then trouble threatens: the students must take a standardized test to prove Diffendoofer's worth, lest the school be closed and everyone sent to Flobbertown (""And we shuddered at the name,/ For everyone in Flobbertown/ Does everything the same""). The valiant Miss Bonkers inspires her troops. Balancing a globe on one finger, she proudly declaims: ""We've taught you that the earth is round,/ That red and white make pink,/ And something else that matters more-/ We've taught you how to think."" Smith pastes in some Seuss sketches and invites Seuss characters and book jackets into his collages. The look, however, is very much Smith's; his style is so strong that it subsumes the Seussian elements in evidence (not just the collaged art but the typeface, the colored pages, the tilt of a given character's nose, etc.). Perhaps the richest reward--for adults if not for children--is the absorbing, meaty afterword by editor Janet Schulman, which allows readers a view of Seuss's draft and gives rare insight into the creative process. Ages 5-up. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/20/1998