Theodor Seuss Geisel's loopy rhymes and otherworldly illustrations made his books instant classics, with titles like The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Hamstill hot sellers more than 40 years after their release. But Geisel didn't set out to become the world's most famous children's author. Originally an adman for Standard Oil, he entered the scribbling biz as a cartoonist for magazines like Lifeand Vanity Fair before taking his first kid-oriented gig illustrating a volume of maxims titled (hee hee) Boners. That led to his writing debut, 1937's And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which cemented Geisel's status as a childhood icon.
Geisel died in 1991, but his work endures. Celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday with a duo of Seussian exhibits, "Happy Hundredth, Dr. Seuss! The Timeless Art of Theodor Geisel"and "The Art of Dr. Seuss: A Retrospective and National Touring Exhibition,"displayed, appropriately, at the Cartoon Art Museum. The first gives you more of the Seuss you already know, with rare original portraits of characters both familiar and obscure, production art from animated features, and illustrations culled from his advertising, magazine, and book work. The second, cheekier exhibit adds some vividly odd stuff into the mix: Geisel's sculptures, personal drawings, and a few of the eerie taxidermied creatures he collected. "Happy Hundredth" is on display now (and runs through June 20) and "The Art of Dr. Seuss" opens Friday, March 5 (and runs through April 10), at the Cartoon Art Museum, 655 Mission (at New Montgomery), S.F. Admission is free-$6; call 227-8666 or visit www.cartoonart.org.
-- Joyce Slaton
Growing up, we're taught that princesses wear glass slippers. But 21st-century heroines are more active: They wear ice skates. At least that's the footwear of choice at Princess Classics, in which some of Disney's most celebrated women -- from venerable consorts like Cinderella and Snow White to more recent upstarts like Jasmine and Ariel -- come to life. The show features the same elaborate sets, costumes, and special effects Disney's known for, plus some of the best skaters in the world. The royals glide in at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday (and performances continue through Sunday) at the Cow Palace, Geneva & Santos, S.F. Admission is $10-50; call 404-4111 or visit www.disneyonice.com.
-- Jack Karp
Everybody loves penguins
Dr. Dee Boersma lives a fantastical life, the kind they make movies about. She lives in Punta Tombo, Argentina, for one, and for another, she's a penguinologist. That's probably not the technical term, but you get the idea. Dr. Boersma often hangs out with half a million Magellanic penguins, and in studying them, the good doctor has noticed that oil spills, overfishing, and pollution are, get this, bad for penguins.
Grown-ups and big kids (ages 12 and up) can hear her lecture "Penguins of Patagonia," while tykes in the 4-to-11 age range can visit the zoo's education center for a kid-friendly presentation, also on the wiggly little birds. Fun for the whole family starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Osher Great Hall at the San Francisco Zoo, 1 Zoo (at Skyline), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 753-7073 or visit www.sfzoo.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Smart marching at the Exploratorium
Vocal groups like the Four Tops and the Temptations gave us more than just groovy music. Dancing was also an essential part of their acts, and many fans impressed by the synchronized swaying and snapping decided to try it themselves. Step shows, in which members of black fraternities matched their dance moves against those of rival Greek houses, started popping up in the '50s; modern versions -- visual extravaganzas of precise stamping and clapping, chanting, music, elaborate props, uniforms, and gymnastic stunts performed by well-rehearsed squads -- are really something to see.
Get an eyeful at the Exploratorium's "Body-Music," a live and loud performance from local college steppers that follows a documentary called Step Show tracing the roots of the phenomenon. Catch the screening at 1 p.m. (and the show at 2) at 3601 Lyon (at Marina), S.F. Admission is $3-12; call 397-5673 or visit www.exploratorium.edu.
-- Joyce Slaton
Before we develop social inhibitions and learn to fear humiliation, dancing comes pretty easily. When you're 1, you don't care what you look like -- you just shake it. Parents wishing to encourage this type of behavior in their tiny tots might want to check out "Boogie to the BITTY Beat," a workshop that sounds more like a party to us. This "bitty beat" is seriously bitty: It's for babies 12 to 18 months old looking for a place to dance and sing with their folks. Get down at 11:30 a.m. at Parents Place, 1710 Scott (at Sutter), S.F. Admission is $15; call 359-2454 or visit www.parentsplaceonline.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser