Seuss card is one for the books

Record: To mark the beloved author's 100th birthday, Lansdowne pupils create a card that could be the biggest ever.

March 02, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

Under yesterday's early-afternoon clouds, children in handmade red and white top hats streamed out of Lansdowne Elementary School in Halethorpe trying to assemble themselves into a line and two circles, spelling out the number 100.

The eldest of their classmates, the fifth-graders, squatted down around the masterpiece they were there to celebrate: a birthday card to the late Dr. Seuss, born a century ago today.

Even if Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, were alive to receive the card, this wouldn't be one for the post office to deliver. The school hopes the card, signed by all 430 pupils who attend the school and featuring artwork by dozens of them, will go down in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's biggest birthday card.

Its official size, as determined by a professional auditor carrying a yellow tape measure, is 51.6 feet wide by 14.9 feet long, or 768.8 square feet.

That's more than a third of the size of a volleyball court.

Inside, it reads:

"We read your books here and there.

We read your books everywhere.

We like them, love them, yes we do.

So we made this birthday card for you."

The card was the brainchild of the Lansdowne school's librarian, Sharon Grimes, who knows a thing or two about world-record setting when it comes to birthday cards.

She was the librarian at Charlesmont Elementary School in Dundalk in 1998 when, she says, the pupils there successfully broke the same world record.

Their birthday card for Dr. Seuss was 719 square feet.

(Incidentally, Dr. Seuss wasn't alive to receive the card then, either. The author of such children's classics as Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish died in 1991.)

Spearheading the Charlesmont project, Grimes learned the drill on dealing with the Guinness Book people: submitting a statement of intent six to eight weeks in advance, and hiring an auditor to take measurements and submit them in writing.

Grimes said she found that making the card got pupils excited about reading Seuss books, researching record breaking and computing area. So when she heard that some Californians made a giant birthday card for Bob Hope that one-upped the Charlesmont kids, she decided to try again.

This time, the card had to be bigger than 750 square feet. Grimes added an extra five feet of red paper trim to be sure it was large enough.

Nevertheless, she worries that another school might outdo them: The "Seussentennial" section of the "Seussville" Web site suggests celebratory activities including, "Create the biggest birthday card ever!"

Karen Tetherow, a spokeswoman for Dr. Seuss Enterprises, said yesterday that she had heard of no other record-breaking attempts.

Celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday has long been a popular event in American schools.

The country's largest teacher's union, the National Education Association, ties it to its annual "Read Across America" event, when politicians, celebrities and other prominent community members go to schools to read aloud.

In years past, students in Carroll County have worn pajamas to school and eaten green eggs and ham.

This week, a relative of Dr. Seuss' will read at the private Norbel School in Elkridge. At Churchville Elementary School in Harford County yesterday, the school system's primary education supervisor read Daisy-Head Mayzie, published after Geisel's death. Later in the month, branches of the Baltimore County library system will feature a story and giveaway program called "Seuss it Up!"

During yesterday's official measurement ceremony outside Lansdowne Elementary, a first-grade teacher dressed up as the Cat in the Hat. Last night, teachers, pupils and parents planned to continue their celebration in the cafeteria, reading Dr. Seuss books and eating cake - topped with red and blue, fish-shaped candy.

Whether Lansdowne breaks the world record or not, Grimes has deemed the project a success: She can't keep the 29 volumes of Dr. Seuss books at the school library on the shelf.

Every kid has a favorite, and The Cat in the Hat is Debbie Sparra's.

"It seems like me and my brother when we sit and do nothing and it's raining," the 9-year-old fourth-grader said.

Brandon Vaughn, 11 and in fifth grade, likes Green Eggs and Ham.

"It reminds me of my brother," he said. "My little brother always asks me to try different stuff, and I say no."

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