"It's like walking into Dr. Seuss' stories," said Karen Fisk of the Springfield Museums and Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, "and finding all the characters you love."
The weeks-old museum celebrates Theodor Seuss Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss. The children's book author and illustrator grew up in Springfield in the early 1900s. He was born in an apartment above his grandparents' bakery and visited the animals at the nearby Forest Park Zoo, where his dad was superintendent. At Central High School, not far from the museum, his schoolmates voted him "class wit," for his clever sense of humor.
The wacky Seussian adventure starts beneath a bright blue archway with pink trees, a structure that many Seuss readers will recognize from the last book he ever wrote, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" A red-and-white-checkered pathway connects the exhibit rooms. The color scheme was inspired by a certain cat who likes to wear a tall hat.
The ground floor brings to life several of his 40-plus children's books. The front door opens up to "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," the first children's book Seuss published. A statue of a police officer patrols a zany parade painted on the wall. Around the bend, step into McGrew's Zoo, a riot of animals, most not found in the wild. A diagram shows some of the pretend creatures from "If I Ran the Zoo." There is a preep, a proo, a nerkle and a nerd. Yes, a nerd - a word Seuss made up. Continue onward to make the acquaintance of Thing One and Thing Two, the Cat in the Hat, the Lorax and the tower of turtles from - burp - "Yertle the Turtle."
"You can climb on them and touch them and rub the Cat in the Hat's stomach," said John Simpson, the project director who painted hundreds of figures and built more than 20 sculptures for the museum.
Jaiden Scott, 10, and his 7-year-old brother, Kenny Ruby, sat on the first two humps of the seven-hump Wump and smiled for Mom's camera. Kenny set his baseball cap on the super-long camel but decided it looked better on his own head.
"Ooh, it's Gertrude McFuzz," said Melissa Dempsey, as she fast-walked toward an image of the bird with the fancy feathers.
Melissa and her husband had surprised their son, Cameron, with a visit for his 14th birthday. During the two-hour drive from Gloucester, Massachusetts, the family dropped hints about their destination: It was a museum ... for an author ... who lived in Springfield. The final clue - he's a doctor - tipped off Cameron.
"The museum has the nostalgia for the adults and the imagination for the kids," he said. Cameron then set off to see Horton, the elephant who heard a Who.
Downstairs, at Cat's Corner, you can make a Lorax mustache on a wooden stick, a paper cat hat or your own book. On the top floor, peek at Seuss's studio and sitting room, which appear exactly as he left them in 1991. His childhood stuffed dog named Theophrastus rests on the couch. Colored pencils sit in boxes. Hats hang from a stand, gifts from fans of "The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins."
In a gallery displaying letters and drawings that Seuss wrote to his stepdaughters, the museum has left a guest book for kids to sign. Many of the notes include drawings, and one features a heartfelt message to Seuss and the museum that takes visitors to places both real and fanciful.
"I want to grow up to be an author like you," wrote Sean, 11. "This museum really inspired me."
IF YOU GO
What: The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum.
Where: 21 Edwards Street, Springfield, Massachusetts.
When: Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Mondays except June 26-August 21, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
How much: Tickets include entry to five local museums: adults, $25; ages 3-17, $13; children younger than 3, free.
For more information, visit springfieldmuseums.org.
Source: The Washington Post.