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Archive for Thursday, June 28, 2001

Ducklings line up against Dr. Seuss

Massachusetts trying to choose ‘official children’s book’

June 28, 2001

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— Call it The Cat in the Hat vs. Jack, Mack and Quack.

Young fans of "Make Way for Ducklings" are battling Dr. Seuss loyalists for the title of "official children's book" of Massachusetts.

In one corner is Robert McCloskey's 1941 tale of a mother mallard shepherding her ducklings through Boston's narrow cobblestone streets to safety in the Public Garden.

In the other are devotees of Dr. Seuss' whimsical neologisms and looping rhymes.

At stake is the purely honorary title of "Official Children's Book of the Commonwealth," which would put the book beside such other emblems as the official dog of the commonwealth (Boston Terrier), official bean (baked navy bean) and official dessert (Boston cream pie).

Passions are running high on both sides.

"Dr. Seuss has a lot of nonsense words. It doesn't teach (children) anything about the state," said Natalie Fabbiano, a third-grade teacher at the Dean S. Luce School in Canton.

Fabbiano's class is spearheading the "Make Way for Ducklings" drive. The class examined other books, including "Freddy From Fitchburg," "Bus Route to Boston," and Seuss' own "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street" before voting on "Ducklings," Fabbiano said.

"I think it should be the state book because it takes place in Boston and the ducks fly over the Statehouse," said 9-year-old Emma McHugh.

McHugh and about a dozen of her classmates recently donned duck caps and held handmade signs at a Statehouse hearing to urge lawmakers to adopt the "Ducklings" bill.

But the book's Boston focus grates on the nerves of Seuss supporters, who say lawmakers should look beyond the state's capital when naming an official children's book.

They also bristle at the thought of honoring McCloskey, a native of Maine, when Theodor Geisel, who adopted the moniker Dr. Seuss, hailed from Springfield.

Springfield state Rep. Paul Caron, who said he was deluged from calls from Seuss supporters, is trying to broker a compromise. He wants to amend the bill to name Seuss the state's official children's author and illustrator while still designating "Make Way for Ducklings" the official children's book.

A bronze sculpture of the ducklings in Boston's Public Garden has become a popular tourist attraction in Boston. The book's popularity has also made the statues popular with thieves; over the years, Jack, Quack and Mack have been swiped.

In 1991, Barbara Bush gave a replica of the sculpture to Raisa Gorbachev as part of the START Treaty ceremony in 1991. It sits near the famous Novodevichy Monastery in Moscow.

The Moscow ducks have also been filched by thieves.

Not to be outdone, Seuss supporters in Springfield are working to raise $2 million to build a Seuss memorial featuring bronze statues of such characters as Yertle, a 17-foot-tall Horton the Elephant and the Cat in the Hat.

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