June 29, 1998 12:00 PM

Come on down to Diffendoofer School and meet Mrs. Fox, who “makes bagpipes out of straws and socks.” And Miss Bonkers, who “teaches frogs to dance and pigs to put on underpants.”

Couldn’t be anyone but Dr. Seuss, right? Well, right and wrong. The recently published Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! (Knopf) is by the late Theodor Seuss Geisel but with major posthumous help from author Jack Prelutsky and illustrator Lane Smith.

Geisel had told editor Janet Schulman he was working on a book about a schoolteacher. But when Schulman saw his sketches shortly after the beloved author’s death in 1991, she realized he hadn’t gotten around to creating a story. Eventually she turned to Prelutsky, who dreamed up a plot: The entire school has to take a test (“because that’s the thing every kid dreads,” he says), and if they fail, Diffendoofer will be torn down and the students sent to school in dreary Flobbertown.

Prelutsky, 57, author of more than 30 children’s books on his own, and Smith, 38, who illustrated The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, say they were both possessed by the Seuss spirit. “I just pretended that the good doctor was sitting there next to me,” says Prelutsky. “Diffendoofer works beautifully,” says Geisel’s widow, Audrey, 76, of La Jolla, Calif. “They somehow manage to work in the Seussian way of looking at life—somewhat askew—and put in their own askewity too.”

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