October 13, 2005


Dr. Seuss Pops Up!  Paper engineering by Keith Finch.  Random House.  $24.95.

     It’s hard to believe that Dr. Seuss has been gone for well over a decade – and will be harder still when you leap into this panoply of pop-ups based on seven Seuss stories: The Cat in the Hat, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Fox in Socks, The Sneetches, and I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!  You have never seen these tales told this way – and Dr. Seuss, a wordsmith above all, might not have appreciated the reduction of the stories’ basics to a couple of pages of three-dimensional paper art – but darn it, this really is a wholly new and fresh way of viewing well-known and beloved Seuss tales.

     You do have to be sure your child knows and loves the tales first.  This book is not a good introduction to Seuss: his great verbal flow and wonderfully silly drawings are here reduced to a few high points from each work.  Nor is this a good book for very young children: It is explicitly not recommended for kids under age three, but even ones as old as six or seven may have trouble working some of the more elaborate fold-ins, foldouts and other designs without damaging the book.  This is really a book for parents and children who already know and love Dr. Seuss and want to revisit oft-read stories together, from a different angle.

     Keith Finch’s design for The Cat in the Hat, for instance, has a half-page foldout that causes the children’s chairs to pop up – after which you open a door that, in opening, actually pulls the cat into the room.  There is also a tab to pull to show the cat juggling all those objects that he then drops – but you don’t see him drop them, because you’re on to the next book.  The encapsulation is equally extreme for all these works – and the paper art is equally clever.  Green Eggs and Ham has a foldout-plus-tab arrangement in which Sam actually presents the unwanted dish to its uninterested recipient, who leans away from it.  Fox in Socks has split pages with multiple pop-ups.  The Sneetches gives nearly the whole story in two pages, thanks to foldouts and pop-ups and even a tab that has the money-hungry Sylvester McMonkey McBean nodding happily.  A few elements are a touch over-complicated, such as a tab that has to be moved in a circle to reveal words, and a small paper car to be dragged (very gently!) along a paper roadway – both elements of I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!  But some items here are laugh-out-loud funny, such as the multiply folded Seven Hump Wump from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.  This book is, in sum, an utter delight for Seuss lovers who are already well acquainted with the seven works from which it draws.  It is so well done that it is almost as if the good Dr. is still with us.  Sigh.

No comments:

Post a Comment