Written by Dr. Seuss, Illustrated by Mel Crawford
Random House, 1950
This is the story of Gerald McCloy
And the strange thing that happened to that little boy
The plot in a nutshell: A boy makes sounds instead of speaking words
Gerald’s parents are shocked when, instead of learning to talk, he makes sound effects. They call the doctor, who doesn’t know any way to cure the problem. As he gets older, the sounds get louder and more varied. His parents send him to school, but he is sent home immediately because his noises are distracting in class. None of the other kids want to play with Gerald, either, and they call him Gerald McBoing Boing. Feeling unaccepted everywhere, Gerald runs away from home, but as he is about to board the train, a man stops him. He introduces himself as the owner of the Bong-Bong-Bong radio station and he invites Gerald to come perform of all his sound effects. Gerald becomes famous and is surrounded by friends and loved ones.
The first time this Dr. Seuss story appeared was on a children’s record, narrated by Harold Peary. UPA released an animated version of it in 1950 as a way of showing animation as more of an exaggerated storytelling medium rather than the realism seen in the classic Walt Disney shorts. It was very successful, winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Short and prompting three follow-up shorts and a limited run television series. A book version was released at the same time as the short, but only for a very limited time. Gerald showed up a dozen years later in Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, playing Tiny Tim and fortunately, able to speak words. The book was re-released in 2000.
Mel Crawford adapted the book’s artwork from the original animated short and if you watch the short (which is available in its entirety on YouTube) you can see many of the book’s scenes happen exactly as they are depicted. The plot follows along the same lines as other famous ‘misfit’ stories, but Gerald’s carefree and optimistic attitude stays strong until close to the end of the book, which is a bit of a departure from the norm. You can’t help but root for Gerald and be happy to see him find his place in the world at the end. It’s a cute story and I can see why it’s found a whole new generation of readers.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that the strange things that make you uniquely you may seem weird to others, but it seems you can often find a way to make them work for you.