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Home | LS5603 Children's and YA Literature | LS6643 Nonfiction for Children and YA
The Boy on Fairfield Street

The boy on Fairfield Street 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.

Children will delight in this charming picture book which takes a look at a well-known children's author from a different perspective. The early life of Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) is explored from his childhood home, through his college days, and to his arrival as an up-and-coming writer in New York City. 

Krull's text is vivid and descriptive, and she delights in telling the unlikely story of the development of the boy who would be Dr. Seuss from the first page:
"No one on Fairfield Street could have said how Ted Geisel, that funny boy, would turn out.
No one in the world could have.
Especially Ted." (Krull, p.7)
From this point in the text, Krull seems to imply in her writing that each significant life event - both positive and negative - played a part in the making of Dr. Seuss. His mother read to him from library books each night. (Krull, p.10) Ted developed a "strong awareness of injustice" as a result of being the target of taunts from intolerant school children. (Krull, p.16) Another example is his bad experience in an art class in high school in which the teacher thought art had to follow the rules. (Krull, p.20) Long commented on this aspect of Krull's style when she said in her review for Horn Book Magazine, "Krull does a good job of linking such early propensities with what turned up later, visually and thematically, in Geisel's books." Through it all, Krull tells the story of a young man who followed his dreams and found his fullest potential when he stopped trying to be who others thought he should be.

A four page section titled "On Beyond Fairfield Street" is appended at the conclusion of the story of Geisel's early life. This section goes into some detail about Seuss's life after moving to New York, and tells of his career until his death at age 87. Krull continues to show ways in which his early life affected his work, and a picture of Seuss as an adult is also included. Older readers and adults will find this section satisfying if they are interested in knowing more about the adult life of Dr. Seuss.

Johnson and Fancher's detailed illustrations portray the emotions described in Krull's text. The reader can see the dejection on young Ted's face on page 17 as he is ridiculed by bullies, his joy over his first acceptance letter from The Saturday Evening Post is seen on page 33, and his hopeful optimism about his new career is shown in the final painting on page 37. The illustrators also make use of lighting to evoke emotion. There is a soft, warm light shining on Ted and his mother as they snuggle close to read a book before bed. (p.11)  Ted stands in the shadows on the schoolground as he is ridiculed. (p.17) And the warmth of the sun seems to cheer Ted on as he bicycles through Forest Park as a little boy. (p.13)

Of each two page spread, Johnson and Fancher's paintings take up one full page. The illustrations stand out from the page not only because of their vivid colors, but they are also outlined in a medium width green line. They are further framed by the white of the page. Krull's text varies in length on each page and is set in a large serif font. The design is further enhanced by some of Seuss's own illustrations. These seem to have been chosen for their relation to the text of that page, such as Seuss's drawing of a zookeeper on a page that tells about young Ted's frequent visits to the zoo (p.8), and each of these small drawings is placed at the bottom of the page that contain's Krull's text.  Many of Seuss's drawings are also included on the endpapers and in the appended section.

Krull includes a bibliography of Seuss's works, which she notes are all still in print, and also a detailed list of where each illustration by Seuss used in The Boy on Fairfield Street was originally published. A list of three titles for further reading is given, and there is also a list of six websites related to Dr. Seuss and the area in which he grew up. Specific citations are not given related to the information in Krull's text.

Long, Jaonna Rudge. 2004. The boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel grew up to become Dr. Seuss (book). Horn Book Magazine 80(1). In EBSCOHost (database online). Available from  Accessed 25 February 2005.

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Holly S.
Graduate Student at Texas Woman's University