Inside the Cat in the Hat

Revealing the dirty little secret of Dr. Seuss' feline friend

Deep, deep inside the realm of children's literature, there is a place to which few adults have dared descend. It is a dark, enveloping, musty, odoriferous land that suffocates all but the bravest. It is the inside of the Cat in the Hat costume.

Barnes & Noble, Borders and the other books-and-more megachains keep the kiddies entertained with frequent "storytimes." At these events, bookstore employees read stories to the younger set, and then the children make a craft, sing a song, eat a sweet treat or whatever. Of course, these readings help develop the kids' interest in books and help sell books. But sometimes, the imaginary mental carnival conjured by a book is interrupted by an apparently real visitor from said carnival; these selfsame bookstore employees squeeze into heavy costumes with prosthetic heads to impersonate Winnie the Pooh, Peter Rabbit or, in this instance, the Cat in the Hat.

Brenda Seale, community-relations manager at Barnes & Noble-Ladue, has worn the Winnie the Pooh, Miss Spider, Miss Frizzle, Peter Rabbit, Madeline, Berenstain Bear and other costumes. She says that she can "barely see" while inside any of them, and she "gets hot." At one visit to a school, she got so hot in a costume that she stood in a walk-in freezer to cool down. She adds that some of the more deluxe costumes contain battery-powered fans but that she has thus far been too afraid of electrocution or fire to turn one on. (That would really ruin storytime.)

Seale also says the costumes sometimes smell inside: Many folks have worn them, and they do induce sweating. She or one of her co-workers will wear the especially tall and intricate Cat in the Hat costume this week. Though it may be hot and smelly inside, it is warm and loving in the bookstore.

Kids ages 2-5 enjoy Dr. Seuss stories including The Cat in the Hat and Gerald McBoing Boing, and the Cat in the Hat visits, at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 9, at Barnes & Noble-Ladue, in the Ladue Crossing shopping center, 8871 Ladue Rd. Call 862-6280 for more information.

 
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