Dr. Seuss proves immortal | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Dr. Seuss proves immortal

Susan Wood, Tribune staff writer

Dan Thrift/Tahoe Daily TribuneIn character, Principal Mark Romagnolo reads to Sara Ortega and the first- and second-grade class at Sierra House.

Disguised as a playful Dr. Seuss character, Mark Romagnolo transformed himself into the Principal in the Hat.

One boy identified the Sierra House Elementary principal with a whoop as if the class were unaware of the dual personality.

Other students in Kristi Wilson’s classes arched their backs in attention to listen to Romagnolo read from Seuss’ “Butter Battle Book.”

At the South Lake Tahoe school on Monday, it was all about Seuss — on the walls, desks and faces of the students. Some sported Cat in the Hat whiskers. Others giggled at the lively cadence of the author who left a legacy of political satire with playful words children across the nation have grown up with.

With bright eyes and a lightning beam smile, Sara Ortega said she ranks “Green Eggs and Ham” as her “favorite ’cause in the end the guy likes the green eggs and ham.”

The 6-year-old swears she’s had the food: “When I was a little kid.”

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That was age 4.

For the sixth annual Read Across America week, schools throughout the nation celebrated the birthday of Seuss — the famed children’s book author who would have been 99 last Sunday. He died five years ago. The aim is to promote national literacy.

Sierra House brought in readers from throughout the community. But it was Romagnolo who took center stage in Wilson’s classroom with a rendition of the “Butter Battle Book.”

Some topics are timeless.

This book, first published in 1984, gives a stunning analogy of the Cold War — Dr. Seuss style.

“On the last day of summer, 10 hours before fall. My grandfather took me out to the wall,” Seuss’ young yook character wrote, setting the stage for an illustrated rock wall dividing the zooks and the yooks.

Their source of conflict involved on what side to butter their bread — the zooks preferred the down side, while the yooks’ butter faced up.

Even with a border patrol, a firestorm began when a “very rude zook” used a slingshot to heave a rock over the wall. The confrontation was followed by a buildup of the slingshot industrial complex.

All-out war was averted by holding a face-to-face meeting at the wall between the two sides.

After the reading before the first- and second-grade students, Romagnolo expressed his amazement that more protests didn’t surround the publishing of some of Seuss’ politically charged books.

He pointed to the debate surrounding a cat who visits the home of children while the parents are away.

Still, the message of reading for fun has never lost its appeal with the generations of children and big kids who have grown up with Seuss.

“Kids really get into the rhythm and rhyme of his books. I find his books are good for parents to read to their kids and to read aloud,” Wilson said, adding she’s used the books stocked at home to read to her boys.

Read Across America’s sponsor, the National Education Association, agrees.

“We have found that through polls kids who read outside of school do better in school, and that’s the point we’re trying to make here,” NEA spokeswoman Barbara Parker said from her Washington, D.C., office.

How do Seuss’ books contribute to literacy?

“It makes a huge difference to have these books at home. I’ve got all levels. I see kids who are read to at home, and they come in much more ready to read,” the teacher said.

They’re also ready to eat up the subjects in the lunch room.

Cafeteria Manager Holly Weber took part in the honorary day by serving up Horton’s hash browns, Cat in the Hat bread sticks and of course green eggs and ham — with the help of a little green food coloring. She added uncolored eggs on the side for those children slightly skittish about the look — “just to see if they’re going to take the eggs and get their protein.”

The school’s head chef became the subject of students’ Seuss projects which highlighted a variety of books on poster boards hung in the hall.

One class posted Weber’s picture next to an excerpt from “Hooray for Diffendoofer Day.”

“We have a cook named McMunch, who merrily prepares our lunch. She makes us hot dogs, beans and fries, plus things we do not recognize.”

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com