Dr. Seuss, best children's writer
Best illustrator, too
Theodore Seuss Geisel has written a number of children's books, and a handful of books for older folks. He writes under the pseudonym Dr. Seuss. Not only are his written words witty, so are his drawings. Silly, too. They will make you and your children laugh. In fact, if you don't laugh at a Dr. Seuss book, you have no sense of humor!
Dr. Seuss also has some profound thoughts in some of his books, thoughts we would do well to heed. How about "Horton Hears a Who!"? This famous line, "A person's a person, no matter how small," should resonate in the hearts and minds of any person who has a humanitarian attitude. It may well be that Dr. Seuss did not intend for this particular sentence to be used for the most obvious application, recognizing the humanity and rights of the tiniest unborn children, but when I see that sentence, that's what I think about.
Dr. Seuss intended for children to take heart from this story, and decide that they matter. Indeed.
Of course, there is another message in that book. It is that if you want to accomplish anything, you have to band together. But the individual gets lost in the crowd and outshouted. Those are the consequences of majority rule.
There have been other writers who have tried to emulate Dr. Seuss' writing style, but in my opinion, they all fall flat. They just don't have his genius.
Photos used under the Fair Use Doctrine.
Horton Hears a Who!
Horton is an elephant, and one day he discovers Whoville, where the Who's live. They are so tiny they live on a speck of dust and you have to use a magnifying glass just to see them. Through a long and painful attempt to save them, the elephant strives to protect them, even when an eagle attempts to carry off the dust with their entire civilization on board, and the book concludes with the idea that even though Who's are very tiny, they're still persons: "A person's a person, no matter how small."
Available also in Spanish.
"This classic is not only fun, but a great way to introduce thoughtful children to essentially philosophical questions. How, after all, are we so sure there aren't invisible civilizations floating by on every mote?" --Richard Farr
"Dr Seuss ignites a child's imagination with his mischievous characters and zany verses." The Express
In Horton Hatches the Egg, Dr. Seuss has his hero setting an egg for what seems like an eternity. Scoffers are always met with the idea that "An elephant's faithful one hundred percent!"
Green Eggs and Ham
This is my all-time favorite. It was the first Dr. Seuss book I read. At the time, I was sitting in a chair being totally bored, because my mother was giving my hair a permanent. I hated this, because it meant hours of boredom and noxious-smelling chemicals. But for some reason, this book was handy and I started to read it. I don't think we both ever laughed as hard before or since.
Sam-I-Am tries to convince the victim of his efforts, to like green eggs and ham, by a large variety of enticements.
"I do not like them, Sam-I-Am. I do not like green eggs and ham."
This book may persuade a child to try a new food for the first time, rather than just deciding it is not good, just because of the way it looks. It reminds me of the time my mother first tried to get me to eat fried okra. Once I tasted it, I wanted all the okra that was left in the dish!
This book is so popular that people have published recipes for green eggs and ham.
I used to keep chickens. My favorites were the Araucanas, both because they were pretty and unique, and because they laid eggs in Easter egg colors. I don't remember if my chickens ever laid green eggs, but they did light blue and yellow. If you don't happen to have Araucanas, you can always use Easter egg dye. :)
The photo on the upper right shows one Araucana egg (left) with eggs from other chickens in more conventional colors. The photo is in the public domain.
For more information on Araucanas, see Wikipedia: Araucana
I wonder if Dr. Seuss knew about Araucanas, or he just picked an icky color!
And for the record, I don't mind green eggs, but I have never liked ham, and the book didn't change my mind!
Fox in Socks
His best beginning reader
Dr. Seuss' readers are based on the reading method of teaching phonics. Of the ones I have seen, I think this one is probably the best to start.
Phonics is vitally important. It not only teaches children to read excellently, it helps their spelling. But even more importantly, it teaches children how to think and reason, and it teaches children that the universe is an orderly place, and that it is worth going to the trouble of studying the universe, nature, and other things to learn about the order, and to discover the wonders.
The most commonly used method of teaching reading in the United States today is sometimes called "look and say". More properly, I'd call it "look and guess". This method was DELIBERATELY devised to teach children to be illiterates, with the intent that they would be easy for a tyrant to control. Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld wrote about this extensively, and if you can get any of his books, they are worth the read. Prior to the first public schools, the literacy rate in the United States was 98%. Anybody who wanted to learn to read, did. Most often, parents taught them. Philanthropists provided scholarships to students who otherwise would be unable to attend a school where they could learn to read.
"Look and guess" is just as silly as teaching whole characters to Chinese and Japanese children, but at least in their case, there is SOME reason to do so, because Chinese characters don't lend themselves to a phonetic approach. They never seemed to discover that certain radicals (parts of characters) often had the same sounds. The result is that a Japanese student probably only knows how to read about 600 characters by the time he graduates from "high school". But in English, it makes even less sense, because our language is 85% phonetic, and the other 15% isn't that hard to learn by rote, and even those words follow phonetic rules to some extent.
Along comes Dr. Seuss to counteract this trend. He puts power back into the hands of parents, to teach their own children phonics. His readers are almost intuitive. The only weakness I see is that he doesn't teach the most common letters first. I like this approach better because it leads to earlier success. Early success is motivating.
But then, perhaps you can't have everything.
Having taught all my own children to read, as well as a few other children, I think I am in a position to say this book is the best of his early readers.
The Butter Battle Book
This book presents an underlying message that most wars are silly and destructive. Perhaps people have a different view of various wars, whether they are necessary or not, but the message is timely and worthwhile anyway.
No group should start a war of aggression simply because their enemy has different views and practices. For my part, I encourage you to feel free to defend the victims of this type of aggression.
One of the delights of Dr. Seuss books is the way in which he can present serious issues to very young children in a totally understandable way. He respects his readers, and it shows!
The Butter Battle Book on Amazon
How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
A perennial favorite, this one creates a modern-day Scrooge and takes him one step further. The Grinch thinks that if you just take their presents away, the people will mourn. He is shocked that this isn't the case at all. The people celebrate anyway.
This book falls short of presenting the true meaning of Christmas, but it certainly does present part of it: the fellowship and love of the season. It attacks the commercialization of Christmas, and I am all for that.
This book has been made into movies more than once. It certainly rivals the Charlie Brown Christmas.
There's a Wocket in My Pocket!
Dr. Seuss loves rhymes. But not every word in the English language necessarily has a rhyming word. If there isn't one, Dr. Seuss will make one up!
Many children's artists simply make ugly looking art. Not Dr. Seuss. His are special. Some of his images are priceless!
You're Only Old Once! A Book for Obsolete Children
Dr. Seuss wrote one or two books for older folks. This one focuses on the woes of getting medical care that elderly people experience.
It doesn't seem to live up to the rest of his work, but that may be simply because I won't have anything to do with the medical Establishment, so I never experience this stuff. Instead, I experience relatively vigorous health, and I do as I please. ;)
And then maybe it is because Dr. Seuss simply doesn't relate to us old fogies like he does to children. He's young at heart, and that's that.
The Cat in the Hat
This may well be Dr. Seuss' best liked book. It's another good book for teaching reading. And there is a sequel! ;)
As they say, "Cat lovers will purr with delight!"
Dr. Seuss prints available
Available at Dr. Seuss Art.
Some available, some sold out.
Classic Seuss architecture.
More Seuss Fun
when I have time.
In the meantime, feel free to go to Dr. Seuss' author page on Amazon: