How a masterpiece was cooked up, with Green Eggs and Ham for dessert.
Breaking occasionally into verse herself—“Dr. Seuss, we insist! / Won’t you please write a book that no kid can resist? / P.S. Use the words on this No-Nonsense List”—Sierra explains how the author of Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose and other favorites put aside his love of made-up words for a set, 236-item vocabulary, spun a “whiz-bang story” out of the elemental rhyme of “cat” with “hat,” and after work followed by inspiration followed by more work released a classic. Nor did “Ted” stop there; he went on to pen and publish a whole line of early readers and also answered Bennett Cerf’s challenge to produce a tale using only 50 different words (“Could he? Would he?”) with another game-changer. Hawkes opens with an integrated 1954 street scene (“a great year to be a kid, unless you were trying to learn how to read”) and closes with hat tips from the Cat and Sam-I-Am. In between he shows the then–clean-shaven Geisel (sometimes in “outlandish” hats of his own) hard at work surrounded by fantastical creatures drawn in Seussian cartoon style and placed against more-realistic, painterly scenes. He plays his typewriter like a magisterial pipe organist in one picture and bears that distinctive elfin grin throughout. Notes from Sierra, Hawkes, and the master himself bring up the rear.
Buoyantly told, rich in insights into the creative process as well as the crafts of writing, illustrating, and storytelling. (book list) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)