Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Wisdom of Dr. Seuss

You'll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You'll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.*

I remember reading Hop on Pop for the first time when I was about 5 years old. I loved that book. Although I am sure that parts of it were memorized, it was the first book that I read by myself. What an amazing author! So simple for children yet so complex for adults. I had forgotten about Dr. Seuss until very recently. Parker has always loved the shorter books by him. For a long period of time it was Dr. Seuss' ABC's before bedtime everyday. I know that book is the reason he recognized the letter P at such an early age. We also went through the Hop on Pop phase, although it didn't last as long. His favorite book to have read to him by Grandpa Pat is To Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street. The imagination behind the stories and the process of creating such rhymes is now, to me, more astonishing than ever. Parker enjoys them for the rhymes and silliness but behind every made up word and story he tells, there is a complete vision of what children can expect to encounter as adults.

Oh, the Places You'll Go and You Don't Know How Lucky You Are, both have simlilar morals. The first beig about the trials you encounter as you move down the path you choose in life. A warning that you will succeed and fail becuae they go hand in hand, but if you keep the right mentality, you will, ultimately, succeed. The second gives a similar warning, but shows more that you can't complain when things are bad because some where in someone else has it worse than you. Children can understand these things are part of life but they are so involved in themselves that they don't believe how bad things can ever enter their lives. It is funny, through periods of low times in my adult life, stories like these two are great reminders that life is just that....highs and lows. I tend to forget that sometimes and get lost in the highs and the lows. My childhood books, the ones my child now enjoys, are also an important part of remembering the cycle of life instead of learning about it.

The Butter Battle Book is one that I read for the first time today. A story about a wall and the opposing views on each side. It's copy write was 1984, so it is fairly obvious the political content that it reflected from that time, but the cliffhanger end of each side having the most advanced weapondry with each side seeing who will end civilization first, is still relevant.

Parker's bedtime obsession currently is The Lorax. There is too much to say about that story. I remember reading it as a child but it didn't hit me hard, I wasn't concerned about the environment the way that children are now. Parker learned about pollution months ago in preschool and needed to know everything about when lakes catch on fire and how it hurts the animals and how to change it. When we first read The Lorax, he asked so many questions about the change in the landscape, why the Brown Barbaloots had to leave, if the Humming fish were going to die, and so on. Now, at the beginning of the book, when the Once'ler says he is doing no harm in chopping down one Truffula tree, Parker calls him a liar. He cares so much about the Earth and this story shows what can happen to it so quickly. The wisdom of Dr. Seuss really is timeless.

I could go on about every story he has written and I have read, the Cat in the Hat cleans up after himself, Sam I am gets the character to try something new, Mulberry Street show that you can see much more than what is right in from of you, every story has such important message behind them. Unfortunately though, they are written from a time where prejudices were widely excepted. Being very critical of the things that I teach Parker make me hesitate occasionally on Seuss' stories. In Hop on Pop there is a single female character with a voice and the only thing that she says is the small words her brother's know and the large words her father knows. The Cat in the Hat have the brother and sister home all day, but the sister is mute. In all of his longer stories, like The Lorax, the main characters are young boys. He often tells his longer stories from the first person, so it can be gathered that he is reflecting on thoughts he had as a young boy. Though I have my issues with some of the underlying gender notions in his books, I can't ignore the more powerful message that children can learn from his silliness. I wiped out the College Hill library branch of all their Dr. Seuss books, so don't try to get any from there until after the 6th of March.

*The quote is from Oh, the Places You'll Go

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