September 24, 2017

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The “Very Serious Nonsense” of Dr. Seuss | Touch and Go

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We’d be remiss if we let Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2 pass without raising a balloon or two. After all, what American child hasn’t met the Cat in the Hat, The Grinch, The Lorax, or Horton?

For Seuss apps, Oceanhouse Media is the place to go. To date they’ve produced more than 40 Seuss titles, including a few free, lite versions; a Seuss bookshelf to store the digital editions; and some games and novelty items; all available for iOS and Android devices. One of those items is the Dr. Seuss Camera – Happy Birthday to You! Edition, which allows users to create birthday cards to decorate and store or email. It’s free, so get going!

In anticipation of the b’day, we asked a couple of our reviewers to take a look at some of the new Oceanhouse releases and what one Seuss character calls some, “very serious nonsense.”

Celebrating it’s 75th anniversary this year, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins ($4.99) is one of Dr. Seuss’s earliest books and unlike many of the author’s later titles, this one doesn’t rhyme. Bartholomew is a small boy living in the Kingdom of Didd. One day, when a procession brings King Derwin down the street, the monarch abruptly halts his carriage and censures the child for not removing his headwear. But every time Bartholomew removes his hat, another appears in its place and no one, including the King’s wise men, magicians, and archers can figure out how to stop the profusion of caps. Finally, the 500th and final hat arrives, bejeweled and covered in ostrich and cockatoo plumes. It’s so magnificent, that the King purchases it for 500 pieces of gold. Seuss’s original art is retained with the bright red of Bartholomew hat(s) the only dash of color on the interior pages. Parents or children can read and record their own narration, or listen to John Bell’s. A minor flaw: there’s no pause button for this rather long story. However, listeners have the option to continue the tale or begin it again once the app is turned off and restarted.—Melissa Stock,Arapahoe Library District, Englewood, CO.

In Seuss’s Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose ($4.99), multiple critters from Bingle Bugs to squirrels build increasingly complex homes in the gentle Thidwick’s antlers. With guests atop the moose’s head, his herd at first shuns him, then refuses to let him join them on their winter migration to the southern shore of Lake Winna-Bango, and finally hunters chase the over-burdened moose until they have him in their sights. The author concludes the tale with a satisfying turn: Thidwick sheds his antlers (as Moose do once a year), and without firing a shot the hunters have a rack of horns to display, complete with all the uninvited guests…stuffed “as they should be.” The art features drawings with splashes of blue and orange. Shaun Conde’s narration is pleasant and multiple touch points on each page trigger word labels that zoom forward for emergent readers. An endearing character and story.—Debbie Whitbeck, West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI

It starts with a small creature and a small yawn, and it spreads throughout the world until the “Who’s-Asleep-Score” is registering in the millions, then billions, of snoozing bodies. Typical Seussian creatures from an Offt (weighing in at minus one pound) and Biffer-Baum Birds to a Jedd and a few real animals (a Moose and a Goose) are snoring, sleepwalking, and dreaming in Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book ($4.99). The story ends with the suggestion that listeners turn out their lights, “Good night.” The colorful art features animals of fantastical shapes and stripes. Read or listen to this tale–and all these contagious yawns—when a five-minute story won’t work the bedtime magic.

In Hunches in Bunches ($3.99), hunches pull a fidgeting, indecisive boy in different directions. Fly a kite? Skate? Climb a tree? Take a bath? Once our character finally makes up his mind what he wants to do he’s stopped by one creature after another: the Homework Hunch, the Very Odd Hunch, the Spookish Hunch, and others, all offering suggestions or demanding that he does what they say. The solution? The boy duplicates himself until “an awful lot of me” help him make a decision—to follow a munch hunch into the kitchen. The colorful art is clear and sharp against the illuminated background. Shaun Conde’s expressive narration and slight sound effects enhance the silliness.

Standard in Oceanhouse Media apps are three options for listening and reading, words highlighted as they are read, and the ability to repeat text and to hear the labels of objects voiced. The newest releases allow listeners to record their own narration, and share it with others who own the app.

While some of Seuss’s early stories are outdated, and others seem incredibly long by today’s standards, these and many others will long live in children’s imaginations.–Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.