One Fish, Two Fish; Red Fish, Blue Fish - Which Is Your Favorite Dr. Seuss Book?
One small hub in a tub on the web;
Two hubs, with fans, in a box by the bed;
Three hubs on forks holding corks with their toes;
Four hubs on line, filled with fine purple prose.
The very first time the doctor's ear-catching rhythms were heard in our house, he was read to us by my dad. My grandfather's local newspaper had published a series on this radical, new children's writer, and Grampa had forwarded the articles to us, complete with pictures and excerpts from 'The Cat In The Hat'.
We were enchanted...and when the next installment came, we thought green eggs and ham were 'the best'. The nonsensical rhymes tickled our funny bones, and even my father, normally rather reserved, seemed quite taken with it all. Needless to say, the doctor became a large part of the required bed-time reading at our house.
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Need less to say, this is probably the best known Seuss book, possibly in the whole world, thanks to the original animated film, and the later re-visioning with Jim Carry as a very, very mean and scary Grinch,
For those of you who have never heard of this enticing gem, it has been described as a modern take - dare we say, a very Seussical version of - Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol."
The Plot revolves around the Grinch (voiced by Boris Karloff), the film's main character. He lives in a cave atop Mount Crumpet, located above the village of Whoville - a surly character with a heart "two sizes too small" who has especially hated Christmas for years. On Christmas Eve, he finally becomes fed up with seeing the decorations, and hearing all the music and caroling in the village . He decides to stop Christmas Day from coming to Whoville. When he sees his dog, Max, with snow all over his face in the shape of a beard, he disguises himself as Santa Claus and steals Christmas.
By the end of the tale, the Grinch, of course, is transformed by what he learns about the true nature of Christmas.
I remember gathering around Grampa's chair in front of the fireplace, listening as he read the story to us from a special newspaper insert. In this version below, DJ Rick does a lovely job of narrating the story, complete with excerpts from the original feature.
A Fun Narration by DJ Rick
This doctor should be locked away,
Subversive Kiddies Lit., I say!
No school books these, "Out!" "Out!" "Away!"
Now, no more rhymes - go out and play.
Forget this nosense, all this drivel!
I tell you, he's not on the level.
This pitter-patter speech must stop!
Untwist your tongues, unplumb your thoughts!
School must be serious, this we know,
So, "Out, you Doctor Flim-Flam - Go!"
Though hailed as a break-through writer for children, the good doctor was not taken seriously by some educators. In a few schools, his books were removed from the shelves. Unfortunately, many educators, still stuck in the ruts of rote learning, did not recognize the value of unleashing the imagination.
Many felt that making up words, and all those lovely, mouth-pleasing nonsense rhymes would cause problems for children trying to learn the basics of reading - of grammar, punctuation, spelling. Good heavens, everyone with a lick of sense knew that learning to read was hard work. To imagine that reading could fun and exciting, or even mildly interesting - well, that just went against everything we've ever learned.
It was, of course, no use pointing out that William Shakespeare, one of the greats of Western Literature, invented words right, left and center. But then, William Shakespeare wasn't being used to teach our poor, vulnerable children to read. Lucky for him. And so the controversy raged.
The Cat In the Hat and Friends
'The Cat In The Hat' is one of the best known of all the Seuss creations, and I suspect there are few North American children who have not at least heard of Jim Carrey's mega-hit movie, 'The Grinch'. Our family favorite, though, pulled out, dusted off, and faithfully viewed year after year at Christmas is still the original version of 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas', narrated by Boris Karloff.
We all sit, glued to the screen as the familiar scenes unfold, reciting the words along with Mr. Karloff and singing the Who-songs. A few of us even get misty-eyed as we join the Who's to welcome Christmas into our own hearts.
More Things Seussical
Unfortunately for us, we grew up in the meantime. Certainly considered childish for my age group, things Seussical did not appear again on my horizon until many years later.
When my son was finally old enough to be read a bedtime story, some old friends became our new, fast favorites. 'The Cat in The Hat' was well received, but to my surprise, my son absolutely adored 'Horton Hears a Who'. Something about that earnest elephant struck a deep chord and for several years, 'Horton' was his most-requested bedtime entertainment.
We both loved 'Fox in Sox', but that was for daytime enjoyment and as he grew older and began to read along with me, 'If I Ran The Circus' replaced 'Horton' on his top-ten list. His cousin, on the other hand, became a big fan of 'The Things That I Saw On Mulberry Street'.
The Next Generation Meets the Doctor...
As is the way of all young, my son and his cousins eventually grew up. They grew so 'up' that they outgrew the doctor. They became teenagers and "put away childish things," much to mature to be interested in nonsensical rhymes. Fortunately for us, it wasn't all that long before a fresh crop of babies arrived, to be diapered, dandled, and (Oh! Joy of joys!) to be read to before bedtime.
Once again Seussisms reigned supreme. How enchanting to see the little eyes grow wide and hear childish tongues struggle to navigate the intricate rhythms.
From children to grandchildren, we have handed down our best-loved books to be shared after milk and cookies, just before bedtime, or in a quiet moment on a rainy afternoon. Whatever your personal favorite, the legacy of the doctor who rewrote children's literature for all times will be lovingly passed on for many generations to come..
The Doctor Has a Lot to Teach Us
We'd all love to have a magic mirror or spyglass, a way to look into the future to see what it holds for our children. We want to protect them. We want all wonderful and good things for our little one. Only the best life has to offer. And we'd love to know what they will do, where they will go, who they will meet.
Even though we know we can't always protect them as our children learn and grow, we can be there for them. We can do our best to prepare them.
Hopefully, we can teach them to value the differences between us, for it in is the differences, not just the similarities, that we find ourselves. We must cherish the unusual, the out-of-the-ordinary, for that is how we define our humanity. And we must show our children that we need to embrace and do our very best enjoy the wonderful absurdity of this serious business we call life.
The doctor sums up every parents' longing so beautifully in his book, "Oh, The Places You'll Go." This last is in tribute to his work.
Oh, the places you'll go! Oh, to tickle your senses
By viewing the world through your Seussical lenses.
Such colors, such sounds! Oh, the marvels you'll see!
The incredible creatures you're certain to meet.
How I wish I could be there, I'd so love to know
What you'll find in the wonderful places you'll go.
© 2009 RedElf