Catherine Stine's IDEA CITY

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dr. Seuss Day, Fun With Kids!

In honor of Dr. Seuss Day, March 2nd, I drove out to a school in Lodi, NJ and did a booktalk and readathon with the fourth grade kids. Every time I do a school visit, I am so very clear why I write for kids. Kids are amazing and fun and so pumped to read good stories!

To backtrack a little, the journey to Lodi was not an easy one. I was nervous about driving my Subaru, as it has some mysterious issue that makes it sound like a cross between a race car and an ancient jalopy. And it’s not the muffler—I had that checked already. Any minute the thing could’ve stopped in its tracks on the highway. To complicate matters, there was a detour on the route I was supposed to drive in on, and no signage whatsoever as to which alternate streets to take.

After a couple of pit stops to ask two very kind folks the way to the school, I chugged in five minutes before I was supposed to appear in the library.

Talk about sweating it!

But as soon as the kids filed in and I saw their eager faces, I breathed a deep sigh of relief and all of my angst dissolved.

I showed them my books, A Girl's Best Friend, Be Careful What You Wish For (I have a short story in this anthology) and Refugees. Then I played a “What if” game with them, where I had them imagine scenarios and characters, and build a story together, based on their brainstorming. They were great at naming the characters and thinking up contraptions for the main guy, who’s an amateur inventor. They understood that each of the three main kids had to have a distinct personality (rather than being too similar). They understood the need for conflict and action. I illustrated this by saying, "Wouldn't it be boring if Harry Potter and his friends sat around drinking juice and chatting instead of actively pursuing a quest? The kids thought this image was pretty funny. Indeed, they were very story savvy.

I think they appreciated having the story structure demystified. I explained that when I was in fourth grade I had plans to write a long book, with chapters. I would always get to around the third chapter and then lose steam, because despite my enthusiasm, I had no idea how to keep it going. In other words, I could've benefited from someone showing me how to construct a rudimentary story roadmap. Characters, plot, challenge, action, struggle, apparent defeat, resolve--you know the drill.

Anyway, the above photo is from my time at the Dr. Seuss Day. What fun!!!!

What do you do to celebrate reading on Dr. Seuss Day? On any day?

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss.


  1. Awesome. How exciting! I want to do this for my son's school next year when he's in first grade. I just didn't think kindergartners were ready for that yet. ;)

  2. Sounds like you had a great school visit. I took my daughter to the Dr. Seuss story time at my local Borders (which is not closing, yay!) We had fun.

  3. another book store saved. Phew! Nice that they do a storytime on Seuss Day.

  4. Hi. I am a reporter for the "Community News" who sat in on your talk with the kids. I am also a fiction writer. I have a novel, "And the Violin Cried." I understand what you mean about your writing in the fourth grade. I started several novels I couldn't finish when I was very young.

  5. Ah, yes, I do remember seeing you in the audience. Good luck with your Violin novel!

  6. Thank you. :) Was your fictional situation that you brainstormed out with the kids related to your current book project? You had said you were writing about a boy who solves conundrums.

  7. Yes, related to a mss I've already written, thus the finished illustrations. I wanted them to see how, even if writers start with the same beginning premise, they will each spin out a unique story.

  8. How fun! I'm sure the kids had a great time :D (And speaking of Dr. Seuss - Green Eggs and Ham is my all time fave book in the world.)

  9. Loved the photo! The students seems so happy and energized by your visit.

  10. It sounds like you had a lot of fun! I bet the kids did too.

  11. Actually, the noise in my Subaru was the muffler! The first repairman didn't even notice a huge hole in the bottom of it. No wonder I don't trust most auto repair guys. Sheeeez...