Imagine That!: How Dr. Seuss Wrote by Judy Sierra (review)
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Reviewed by
Sierra, Judy Imagine That!: How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat; illus. by Kevin Hawkes. Random House, 2017 [34p]
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-375-97429-8 $20.99
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-553-51097-3 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-553-51098-0 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 2-4

It’s hard to imagine, but once there was a world without Dr. Seuss’ lively beginning readers. Sierra’s brisk text takes contemporary youngsters back to that literarily impoverished time to describe how the established picture-book creator tackled the challenge of restricted vocabulary (rejecting both a zebra and a bird as protagonists when it turned out those words didn’t appear on the list of words he was allowed to use), ramped up the readability to the max with rhyme, comic art, and cliffhanging page turns, and created “a fantastic book using only 236 different words.” (He followed up with Green Eggs and Ham, which uses only fifty different words.) The clear, occasionally playful text focuses entirely on the process—no biography here, just exploration of writing creatively within strict limitations. The book treats that task like a puzzle to be solved, which adds I-wanna-try-it language arts appeal. The illustration interweaves Seuss and Hawkes in a Who Framed Roger Rabbit? mingling of worlds; Hawkes’ cheerful, openhearted realism is a fine counterpoint to the Seussian cartoons. While this could be an eye-opening entrée to book creation, it could also be an interesting partner to Sturm’s Adventures in Cartooning (BCCB 7/09) or even Janeczko’s poetic A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms (BCCB 4/05) for an introduction to the challenges different genres bring. Writing and illustrating tips from Dr. Seuss and a bibliography are appended.

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