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lizandkatecupRemember when you were in first grade? Those were good times – at least for me. Hard work meant choosing between the lilac or hot pink crayon.

My, how things change. Flash forward to 2009 and my son Colton’s first grade class.

The assignment was straightforward, stapled to a massive 11-by-17 sheet of paper, folded in half. In honor of Dr. Seuss, each child was asked to pick their favorite author, draw a picture of him or her and write a brief biography on the inside pages. The front “cover” was to be a drawing of one of the author’s books. The back “cover” was for a summary of the book. I’d be willing to bet Colton doesn’t even know what a book summary is – let alone how to write one. On the due date, each child would present their report for the class.

The easiest part was picking the author. Dr. Seuss was a shoe-in. The book of choice was a classic – Go, Dog, Go.

Now in the minds of seven-year-old boys, I’d venture a guess that having to write not one, but two pages of words is the equivalent of having to sit with the girls in the lunchroom. It’s a prison sentence. Hands down.

We began the battle that was this assignment with the book summary. Colton wrote while I searched for a picture of Dr. Seuss that he could use for reference. Thirty minutes later, he had filled the back page with highlights from the book, such as “The yellow dog pulled the blue dog and the red dog was walking in and out and they didn’t like her hat.” Not bad, but not a book summary – which is when it hit me: was there really a point to this classic children’s book?

I mean, seriously. What did it mean? A bunch of dogs going and running and sleeping and playing, some are up, some are down, and no one likes the girl’s hat – until the very end, when they all drive to the tree and have a big party. Did they have alcoholic beverages up in that tree? Is that why the girl dog’s hat suddenly becomes vogue?

By now, Colton was in tears with the realization that many of his words, so painstakingly written over all that time were about to vanish into the head of an eraser.

I assured him as best I could that we’d find some way to fix the summary, and encouraged him to turn his attention to the biography. He’d written three sentences on Dr. Seuss, when, for some unexplained reason, I realized something I wished I hadn’t.
Dr. Seuss didn’t write Go, Dog, Go. P.D. Eastman did.

This is where I admit that it would have been really easy to pass off Dr. Seuss as the author – moreover, the thought not only crossed my mind, I actually debated it over the course of three or four seconds, if for no other reason than to put an end to Colton’s meltdown that was at full throttle.

I stood in the kitchen coming up with plan B, listening to Colton cry about having to erase everything on the author page and wondered if his tears were falling on the pages. “Here’s your tear-stained report,” I wanted to say to his teacher. “Yes, I know the pages are blank, but if you’ll look closely, you’ll see all those words that were erased. I hope you’re happy.”

Instead, I went to my office to see what I could learn about Mr. Eastman, hoping I’d be able to find a picture of him, too. Turns out, Mr. Eastman was often confused as being Dr. Seuss (see? I probably coulda pulled it off…). His biography was going to be dramatically shorter. Besides being one of the Dr. Seuss book writers, he also worked for Walt Disney. That was about the size of it.

Anywho, but by the grace of God, the report was finished by 6:30. He’d trudged through even after having to re-write the biography and re-work the book summary. He’d done a great job.After dinner, Colton practiced giving his report. “…P.D. Eastman also worked for Mickey Mouse,” Colton said.
Stranger things have been said, I thought. So I just smiled.

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