SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.
The Cat in the Hat knew how. So do the folks at the newly opened Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, the hometown of Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss.
The museum is the newest addition to the Springfield Museum Center, a complex of five museums in the heart of the western Massachusetts city. In addition to the Seuss museum, visitors will find the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Springfield History, the Smith Art Museum and the Springfield Science Museum. One ticket provides admission to all five museums.
The Seussian fun begins in the museum’s main courtyard and the outdoor Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden. The centerpiece of the garden is Horton Court, a whimsical hodgepodge of some of the most popular characters from Seuss books, anchored by two of the sweetest (and biggest) creatures in the Seuss menagerie: Horton the Elephant and Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose.
Nearby, Seuss-lovers might feel a tug at their heartstrings at the life-size depiction of Geisel at his drawing table with the Cat in the Hat peering over his shoulder.
The “Storyteller” sculpture is a popular place for a picture or selfie. The sculpture features an inviting bronze chair in front of giant pages engraved with the complete text of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” whose inspirational advice (and gentle warnings), all offered in Seussian rhyme, makes the book a popular gift for new high-school and college graduates. (The Grinch also peeks around the pages, perhaps as a reminder of some of the bumps awaiting along the road of life.)
The sculptures, obviously a project of great love and understanding, were created by Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, one of Geisel’s stepdaughters.
The Seuss Museum is in the Pynchon Memorial building, formerly occupied by a local history museum.
The new museum is, obviously, a family place. But everyone loves Seuss. I visited during an adults-only reception, and the crowd was almost as giggly and agog-ily as any group of first-graders would have been. (The fact that it was a cocktail reception probably didn’t hurt.)
On the first floor, visitors find exhibits such as “Readingville,” which is delightfully populated with Whos and Things and Wickersham Brothers — all as big as life or, more accurately, as big as a kid’s imagination.
The walls are covered with mural-sized reproductions of scenes from Seuss books in all their eye-popping, zingy colors, with backgrounds of weird flora and gravity-defying Seussian architecture.
Every room reminded me of a different ear-catching rhyme that my children and I loved and still love. Rediscovering forgotten characters was another delightful experience, as when someone shouted “It’s a seven-hump wump!” or “It’s Yertle the Turtle,” and, sure enough, there they were.
I paged through an electronic book display to find my favorite: The Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz, as you can plainly see.
The museum turns a bit more traditional on the second floor, where visitors will find a re-creation of Geisel’s colorful La Jolla, California, living room and study, including the drafting table where most of his books were drawn.
A couple of more rooms are devoted to Geisel mementos and to works he created for friends and family members as gifts, greeting cards and invitations — most are as inventive and fun-loving as his children’s books, and in a couple of chuckle-provoking cases, they are naughty bordering on risque.
The Cat’s Corner, or museum basement, is a place for special programs and arts and crafts. I made myself a pair of Horton ears, which seemed the best option, stylistically, for me, although others at the reception opted for “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” beanies or Lorax mustaches, while still others brought their own Seussian-style headgear with them.
Will you love the Seuss museum? Yes! You will, indeed (98 and three-quarters percent guaranteed)!
— Steve Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SteveStephens.