Happy birthday to Theodor Seuss Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss! He was born today back in 1904, and his books still speak to readers of all ages. It's hard to find a family bookshelf that doesn't have at least one Dr. Seuss, whether it's Green Eggs and Ham, Hop on Pop, or Oh! The Places You'll Go.
Dr. Seuss books were my favorite books to read to my son when he was a little guy -- not least because they're so much fun to read aloud. "Far away in Berlin a musical urchin named Gretchen von Schwinn has a blue-footed, true-footed, trick-fingered, slick-fingered, six-fingered, six-stringed tin Schwinn mandolin." That's from Oh Say Can You Say. Why else did I love reading Seuss to my kid? Let me count the whys.
First of all, the language. Dr. Seuss loves playing with words in the silliest, most irreverent way. I think it's a great way to get kids comfortable with language -- it brings words down to their size and turns words into their playthings. Growing up, imaginative word play was a big part of my family life -- and thanks to the Seuss books, it's part of our family life today.
Green Eggs and Ham was created for picky eaters. I swear, it must have been. Of course, for most of us, the "say, I do like green eggs and ham!" epiphany takes YEARS, but Dr. Seuss introduces the possibility of changing your mind, and that's enough.
I love the ethics lessons. Remember the Sneetches, with stars upon thars, and the ridiculous race to prove who the BEST Sneetches are? Or the Grinch's change or heart, or sensitive Horton. Dr. Seuss is all about kindness and bravery -- and just a little bit a whole lot of mischief.
And finally, yes, The Lorax. It's amazing how threatened certain grown adults are by this book -- I almost think you could write an extremely silly Seuss book just about that! But it also speaks to the power of this story. Teaching kids to respect the earth? I respect that. And sap that I am, I tear up every time I read that line: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not!"
So here's to my son's favorite Seuss book, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. And here's to the feeling we get when we reach the end of a Seuss book: "Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
What's your favorite Seuss book?
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