Oh, the Thinks That He Thought! Some of Seuss’s lesser-known works

Born 107 years ago today in Springfield Mass., Theodor Seuss Geisel had an extraordinarily prolific career.  Most people know him for the 44 books he wrote and illustrated under the name “Dr. Seuss.”  But that’s only part of his career.  He wrote another 13 books under the name “Theo. LeSieg,” one book as “Rosetta Stone,”…

How to Talk Nonsense

Last Friday, in my English 703: Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature class, the students and I spent 5 minutes talking nonsense.  We’d been reading theories of nonsense, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice books — I thought it would be both fun and educational to put those theories into practice. So, based on our readings of Tigges,…

Syd Hoff’s Teeth: The Leftist Satire of A. Redfield

While he was contributing to the New Yorker as Syd Hoff, he was also contributing to the Daily Worker and New Masses as A. Redfield — the pseudonym he adopted for his radical work.  The Ruling Clawss (Daily Worker, 1935) collects his cartoons originally published in the Communist daily.  Contrary to what all published biographies (except…

Crockett Johnson on humor

This appears in the 1969 catalogue for Weston Woods Studios. As far as I know, Crockett Johnson said these words on no other occasion. He did, in 1943, tell journalist Charles Fisher, “I don’t draw or write Barnaby for children. People who write for children usually write down to them. I don’t believe in that”…

Get on that pig, and hold on tight.

With a hectic new semester about to begin (or, for many of us, already begun) and our new governor’s proposed assault on some of Kansas’ most vulnerable citizens, let us seek solace — and inspiration — in the verse of our greatest living YouTube poet, Parry Gripp.  As he counsels, when The world has gone…

Safety Last

When I was about 9 years old, watching television one weekend afternoon, I saw a black-and-white film of a bespectacled man climbing the side of a building.  He ascends a floor, narrowly misses falling, is about to enter the building through the window — then, another man emerges, with a policeman in pursuit, and tells…

It’s a Joke, Jackass

I’m surprised by the extent of the kerfuffle over the use of a single word in Lane Smith’s It’s a Book.  In her Amazon.com review, librarian Margaret Burke writes, “I usually love Lane Smith’s books but was disappointed with the word jackass in the first page. I will NOT put this book in my library…

Crockett Johnson Laughs

Crockett Johnson was not a teller of jokes.  His sense of humor was wry, subtle, sardonic.  He’d quietly offer a well-turned phrase or make an off-hand observation that perfectly addressed the moment.  However, in contrast to his gentle delivery, he “had this sort of earthy laugh,”1 a “marvelous laugh.”2 Courtesy of Nina Stagakis, here is…

Parry Gripp, Commercial Jingles, & Other Good Music

What ever happened to commercial jingles?  When I was growing up, it seemed to me that most products had their own theme songs: “My bologna has a first name — it’s O-s-c-a-r,” “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz,” “Hershey is the great American chocolate bar,” “What walks downstairs, alone or in pairs, and makes such a slinkety…

It’s a Lane Smith Book

Comedy is hard.  Lane Smith makes it look easy.  I’m not going to reveal the punch line to his latest, It’s a Book, because I don’t have to: There are plenty of amusing moments along the way.  When the jackass asks, “Where’s your mouse?” Smith provides a wordless page in which a mouse emerges from…