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:
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
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 http://search.epnet.com/login.asp. Accessed 25 February 2005.