Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dr.Seuss!

Theodor Seuss Geisel (March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991), fondly known by his pen name, Dr.Seuss, continues to posthumously entertain, educate, and inspire many of us through his writing.

Best known for the numerous children's books he authored and illustrated in his inimitable style, Dr.Seuss took a special interest in battling illiteracy among school children by making his books fun, silly, and accessible, to encourage struggling young readers.

Whether it is his preferred tetrameters, be it iambics or anapests, or his made-up words, or his goofy illustrations, or the not-found-elsewhere creatures, his books draw in readers of all ages with a promise to amuse.

Dr.Seuss came into my life well past my childhood, leaving me with jaw-dropping wonder at his cleverly crafted book on environmentalism and anti-consumerism, The Lorax, (shared here at Saffron Tree), which was the very first Dr.Seuss book I read.

And, since then, I've been partial to The Lorax and I had Trouble In Getting To Solla Sollew, two of the many Dr.Seuss books on our bookshelf, picking them up as often as I can to read to my children.

While a few other lighter books have since become my daughter's favorite - Dr.Seuss' ABC's, Fox in Socks, One Fish Two fish, Green Eggs and Ham, Cat in the Hat to name a few - The Lorax is one of the books she has progressively assimilated in her own way, asking many questions, expecting easy answers, worrying about the barbaloots, wondering why the Once-ler kept chopping down the Truffula trees... and for that I am grateful.

I Had Trouble In getting To Solla Sollew

While it doesn't feature the enchanting and enigmatic Cat-in-the-Hat or the pesky and persistent Sam-I-am, the book follows a curious yet easy-going creature in his attempt to flee his current problems in the Valley of Vung, hoping to find safe haven in Solla Sollew where they never have troubles; at least, very few.

The subtle message of facing one's problems and attempting to handle them suitably instead of trying to run away seeking utopia elsewhere (as it doesn't exists), is sure to be lost on the wee ones at first. But, on our many reads, the questions my daughter interrupts with, and the answers I scramble to stitch together as seamlessly as possible, has made this a very rewarding experience, especially for me.

And over time, I am sure she will manage to distill the message. But for now, the comical annoyances by the Skritz, the Skrink, and the Quilligan Quail start us off on a rollicking journey, with the brilliant poetic meter holding our full attention, while the curious-looking creatures intrigue and entertain us until we read Now my troubles are going to have trouble with me! and close the back cover with the ceremonious The End.

Of course, she is not quite satisfied as the hero of this book has no name and is not of an easily recognizable species, leaving her guessing and obsessing about categorizing him in her mind in a convenient slot, leading to completely unintended exercises we embark on every time we read the book.

And, not the least of all, How the Grinch Stole Christmas has become one of our Holiday favorites, almost a tradition, to be read only in December every year, not any other time.

I was naturally curious about how, if at all, Dr.Seuss has influenced our own Saffron Tree family and here's what the wonderful fellow-contributors had to say.

Fun loving and intense, Poppin's Mom enthusiastically shares her pick that has a special place in her heart and home.

Fox in Socks

How can one not like a book that starts off with saying on the front page "Take it slowly. This book is dangerous" ? That dangerous book would be Dr. Seuss's Fox in Socks. A book about the fast speaking fox in socks confusing the bejesus out of poor tongue tied Mr. Knox. Every time the Fox strikes with a tongue twister, Mr. Knox complains. He says - "I can't do this! Mr. Fox Sir" And every single time Fox ups the stakes and comes up with a more convoluted rhyme.

In the end however, the Knox does an about turn and locks the Fox up in the tweetle beetle bottle. And you would too, if you were asked to say THIS:

When beetles fight these battles in a bottle with their paddles and the bottle's on a poodle and the poodle's eating noodles...they call this a muddle puddle tweetle poodle beetle noodle bottle paddle battle.


My daughter likes to read every single thing on this page, right from the warning up in front to the fox asking us at the end - Now, is your tongue numb?" She especially loves it when I blubber blabber (accidentally on purpose) my way through the rhymes. Complete nonsense rhymes and a load of fun. Fox in Socks is our absolute favorite.

The Artnavy household fancies Green Eggs and Ham. Read on to know why...

Green Eggs and Ham

The first time we read Green Eggs and Ham, as a vegetarian living in India, the query I had to answer was "What is ham?". First published in 1960, it is among our favourite Dr.Seuss books now.

It is a dialogue between the zealous and persistent (almost pesky) Sam-I-am and a reluctant, black hat wearing, nameless victim. Sam-I-am tries numerous ways to convince his stubborn target to taste the green eggs and ham- choosing various companions and locations- in a house with a mouse, in a box with a fox and so on. The skeptic finally gives in to tireless Sam-I -am's sales pitch and hesitantly tries the green eggs and ham and finds he actually enjoys them!!

However many times we read it, even with full knowledge of the end, the tale culminates in a state of feverish excitement for us.

The book is a cumulative tale, which uses only 50 words in all, most of which are monosyllabic. The illustrations are whacky and the characters are not really identifiable, in typical Seuss style. After a few readings, we noticed that the reluctant gourmet's hat seems to mimic its owner's expressions.

And draped in all the fun , the story tells us to be open to new experiences and not to go by appearances alone.

http://school.discoveryeducation.com/quizzes/cc_rathbunj/seuss.html- DR SUESS QUIZ

A journalist who is never short of words or ideas, The Mad Momma, shares an off-beat Dr.Seuss that suits her mad family:

Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!

Our favourite Seuss number is a not so popular one called Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!

A book for beginner readers, the premise is simple. A guest who has overstayed his welcome is asked to leave in many ways. It's not really the most polite book on earth, which is what makes it totally suitable for our mad family. The Brat and the Bean enjoy yelling go! go! go! as I read it to them and they're learnt a few ways in which you can ask a guest to leave - stilts, broomsticks, camels, cows, rugs and some made up completely - I shudder to think of them using those phrases! The ways suggested are unique and fun even as an adult you find yourself giggling helplessly by the end of it.

Another reason why I personally love it - is a more grown up piece of trivia. When accused of never writing anything political, Dr Seuss picked up a copy of the book, struck out Marvin K Mooney and wrote Richard Nixon. I thought that was brilliant.

As she tries to live so life doesn't happen when she's busy making other plans, Kodi's Mom, shares two books that have her kids' attention.

Mr Brown Can Moo, Can You?

Now known in our household as the Moo book, this was one of the first books that my then-3yo had memorized and could say the next line by looking at the first letter. If you haven't read this simple board book yet, don't wait any longer..It glorifies talented Mr Brown who can moo, buzz, splat, knock, boom, and make many other sounds. But why should the talent stop at Mr Brown? You, the reader, are encouraged to make the sounds too. The Moo book is funny, jolly, noisy for ages 0+, that you can turn the page and review over and over again.

There's a Wocket in my Pocket

"Did you ever have the feeling there's a zamp under the lamp?" begins the book. The kids feel compelled to answer.

"Yeah!!!" says the 4yo, but the almost-2 year old disagrees: "Noooo."
And yet both LOVE the woset, zower, noothgrush that one might find in the closet, shower, toothbrush. Get the drift? Some of these fantastical creatures are friendly and sweet, like the lullabying zillow, some, like the bofa could care less, but every one of them is adorable when read in Seussian rhyme. And nothing says you should stop at the end of the book; pick a regular household item and make up your own rhyming creature that could hang around it. We've spotted grouch, beevee, zed among many others on our furniture - go see what you find!

With talent to match her passion for illustrating, Wordjunkie shares a firm favorite.

Scrambled Eggs Super

Scrambled Eggs Super was the first Dr Seuss book my daughter and I read, and it has stayed a firm favourite. It's classic Seuss - zany drawings, whacky characters, hilarious situations, deft wordplay and a very satisfying end. And, like every Seuss book, a sheer joy to read aloud.

'Eggs' introduces us to Peter T Hooper, a boy who spins a terrific yarn about a very special meal he once created.

"To make the best scramble that's ever been made", says Peter, "A cook has to hook the best eggs ever laid."

And off he takes us on a rambunctious ride to some very strange places, to find some truly exotic birds to nab eggs from. Meet such lovelies as the Ruffle-necked Sala-ma-goox, the beagle beaked bald headed Grinch and the dainty Pelf (that lays eggs three times as big as herself!). Peter is not alone either - some very accommodating accomplices across the globe go the extra mile or (quite literally) move mountains to get him his eggs.

And at last, when Peter has all the eggs he needs, he rolls up his sleeves and begins making his "Scrambled Eggs Super-de- Dooper- de - Booper, Special de-luxe a la Peter T Hooper".

I must confess, however, that while we read this book constantly, we always come away feeling a little sorry for all those poor robbed birdies!

Making up whimsical bedtime stories for her children, Ranjani recalls the book(s) that fascinated her son, and then some that appealed to both her kids.

I can't remember Sooraj's age at that time. But it was the time I was trying to get him to read books. Initially I tried the LadyBird early learning series. Though it was simple and easy, it was not funny and that was the main reason he never took to those books. Then the first book of Dr.Seuss he read was "Marvin K Mooney – Will you please go now?". It fascinated him a lot and he realised that books could be fun too. Then there were a series of Seuss books to follow – In a people house, Ten apples, The foot book, The tooth book. "Mr.Brown can Moo ! Can you ?" is a book which has appealed to both my kids !

A children's book writer herself, with her debut book hitting the shelves recently, Praba appreciates the fact that quite a number of Dr.Seuss' books address social issues, and not in a heavy-handed way, while letting the kids laugh as they absorb and think. She shares her favorite Dr.Seuss:

Packed with silly rhymes, fun words and made-up names, Dr. Seuss' books have inspired children to read for several decades now. Thanks to him, like million other families, we have certainly enjoyed a good share of giggles and laughs reading his books. But, what I have always liked about Dr. Suess' books is that, they are not just aides to teach children how to read, his stories also get children to think. With deceptively simple titles, some of his books have pleasantly surprised me with the uplifting moral themes that get delightfully and coolly addressed.

Two of his books, The Lorax (reviewed here) and The Sneetches, revolving around the themes of the environment and social justice are definitely the all-time favorites in our family. In these books, one cannot miss the unqiue style in which he approaches heavy subjects in a light-hearted manner. He offers serious messages, not in a heavy-handed or full-of-warnings kind of scary way, but in his own unparalleled ways of comical imagination and fun wordplay. And thus,equally reaches both grown-ups and children. Unsurpassable, Dr.Seuss!

A couple of years ago, simply based on a whim to own many of Dr.Seuss' stories in one big volume, I bought for my girls, Your Favorite Seuss: A Baker's Dozen by the One and Only Dr. Seuss. It is a collection of thirteen Dr.Seuss stories. The book has served us during many sessions of bedtime read-aloud.

It includes stories such as Yertle the Turtle, The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and other commonly known ones, all with original illustrations. That is not all. The book also inter-mingles "behind the scene" information about the making of the stories, and historical information about Dr. Seuss himself. An icing on the cake, so to speak.

The Sneetches, one of the thirteen stories in the collection, certainly left an ever-lasting impression on the little minds in our family(not to miss the grown-ups, too). The story sensitized my little ones to the meaninglessness of discrimination based on appearance - a terrible thing indeed and sadly, the most common way humans sometimes show prejudice, prevalent even today across many societies.

In the story, there are two kinds of Sneetches (sneetches being bird-like yellow creatures who live on a beach) - ones that have a green star on their bellies, the star-bellied Sneetches and the other kind of sneetches that have no stars, the plain-bellied Sneetches. The star-bellied Sneetches think they are part of the "snooty, I-am-superior club" and they go about discriminating the plain-bellied Sneetches.

Thanks to a con-artist named Sylvester McMonkey McBean, who appears on the beach with some strange machines, the Sneetches go about changing their appearances going back and forth between getting stars on their bellies to no-stars. All this to prove to the other group, who is part of the-superior-club and who is not.

The Sneetches eventually end up penniless and McBean being smart takes full advantage of the situation and departs a rich man. Amused by their behavior, he leaves the beach asserting that "you can't teach a Sneetch". Contrary to that, the Sneetches do in fact learn from this experience that neither plain-belly nor star-belly Sneetches are superior, and start getting along and become friends. A very happy ending, indeed!

Children's book author and photography enthusiast, with her debut book hitting the shelves recently, Meera shares a timeless classic by Dr.Seuss that is sure to motivate and inspire children of all ages.

Oh, the places you'll go!

Oh, the places you'll go! is what I (we) have picked to celebrate THE Dr.Seuss. We love it for a multitude of reasons.

For one, the book is timeless. From elementary, to high school, through a career, to any point in life when we need that little dose of oomph, we could reach for it. This is one book that opens with 'Congratulations!', need I say more?

The book is loaded motivational metaphors, in addition to Dr,Seuss' signature rhyme and rhythm. And the whimsical illustrations do perfect justice to these - so honestly descriptive and equally amusing. Initially the reader is pumped up by all the cheering to 'go places' in life. Then comes the mention of 'hang-ups' and 'bang-ups' and the liberal use of 'slump' - all in the context of failures, downfalls, and obstacles that life unsympathetically offers. Personally, I feel uplifted when I read this book to my little girl while she innocently enjoys the conversational text that delightfully rhymes. I pause to explain the figures of speech and the pragmatic truths tucked in. Just as mild graveness sets in, high-spiritedness bounces back with ease. Generous in humor and rhyme, burdened with an invaluable life lesson, in a colorfully whimsical package is Dr.Seuss' Oh, the places you'll go! for any boy or girl, big or small!!

A veritable encyclopedia of children's books and all things related to it, ChoxBox shares a favorite that is etched in her memory:

The Cat in the Hat
I must have read The Cat in the Hat and its sequel at least five hundred times when my older child was a toddler, so obsessed was she with it. So the second time around I didn't really need to look at the book - all those fuddle duddle muddle phrases tumbled out of my mouth by themselves. The Cat in the (Matrushka) Hat, as it is referred to in these parts, is being self-read once again. My work is done, Thank You Dr.Seuss!

Who's who and What's what in the books of Dr.Seuss


Vibha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sandhya said...

I have read Dr Seuss books to my daughter since she was a year old. Our favourite books have been many. We like ‘The cat in the hat’ and its sequel for the pure mayhem and irreverence. We like ‘Fox in socks’ and ‘Oh say, can you say’ for its tongue twisters. We have spent a lot of time savouring the sheer pleasure of those words. I have put ‘Green eggs and ham’ to good use to make her eat something that she feels she will not like. We like ‘oh, the things you can think’, ‘McElligot’s pool’ and ‘Oh, the places you’ll go’, for the sheer imagination. ‘The lorax’, for what it teaches about protecting the environment. I could go on and on. Dr. Seuss rocks. Our special favourite is actually a book by P. D. Eastman, also a part of the ‘Cat in the Hat’ series. It is a book called ‘Are you my mother?’ We have read it so many times since before she understood english. I would tell her the story in Marathi and the pictures did the rest. We have lost track of the number of children we have gifted this book.

Choxbox said...

What fun!

@Sandhya: Knew you'd have many words to say :)

sandhya said...

I know. I do indulge in verbal diarrhoea, don't I? Can't help it, I suppose.

Tharini said...

What a treat Sheela! Such a lovely, personal presentation! Loved it. Now my job is to check out these books and discover the world of Dr. Suess myself!

utbtkids said...

Awesome compilation Sheela.

Dr.Seuss's HOP ON POP board book was the first book that I read to my older one and the book used to travel with us 24x7. At a point of time she used to hold the book and read it out of memory. One fine day, I found her holding the book and reading every word much slowly. She was actually reading it!!! I have that copy in my memory box, tattered, spilled with cereal, ripped, some pages puffed with water spills..... But that book (and Seuss)is precious in many ways.

Another trivia about Green eggs and ham, another fav at home. Seuss was challenged by a friend to write a book with 50 words or lesser. Thus Green Eggs and Ham was born. I remember this from one of the presentations I did on Seuss for one of my classes.

Poppins said...

@Sandhya: That was a big hit here too - infact PD Eastman's Go Dog Go, another HUGE hit.

@Utbt: Hop on Pop was the first book my daughter "read' as well ! :-)

Lovely work Sheels!

Choxbox said...

@Sandhya: And we are glad that it is so. Thanks officially for your comments :)

Praba Ram said...

An awesome compilation, Sheela. Savored every little detail. Thanks to you and everyone on the team for taking the time.:) I sure did have fun.

Sandhya, P.D.Eastman's Are you my mother? is a HUGE favorite in our family as well. By default, this is the "first" real story that gets read in the family, during toddler years. And naturally with lines memorized, also becomes the first book the kids start reading by/to themselves. (sidenote: we love sounding like the SNORT..:)) A simply glorious book - has warmed our hearts for a thousand read alouds. I can go on and on... And thanks to Dr.Seuss for supporting P.D.Eastman! :)

ranjani.sathish said...

Great work Sheela !! I can't believe you remembered a snippet of information left somewhere in a comment box :-)

Meera Sriram said...

Supercool! Dr.Seuss would (have) been immensely pleased with this:)
Its a treasure. Thanks Sheela!

Sheela said...

Sandhya:: Am in stitches - "verbal diarrhea", eh? My dad has that expression in tamil, makes me chuckle every time I think about it - makes me more tolerant towards Ana's obsession with terms like "poo-poo-head" and "fart-face" :) Seriously though, loved everything you had to share - Dr.Seuss is an inspiration!

Tharini:: I can't wait for next year's compilation featuring your favorite!

Ranjani:: Your made-up bedtime story about the colorful butterfly resonated with me - I can't seem to dislodge that tidbit from my memory. And am glad for that :)

Summer 2009 favorite with Ana was Theo.LeSieg's I Wish That I had Duck Feet - she wanted to be a Which-what-who so desperately :)

Praba, TMM, Choxbox, Poppy, utbt:: It was my pleasure! I hope to be able to do more such posts down the road :)

Anonymous said...

Luv Green Eggs and Ham! Dr Seuss was a Trending Topic on Twitter today http://bit.ly/98RjsK

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

Lovely !! Thanks for this post ... the reasons each has their favourite is so nicely shared.

Cat in the Hat has always and perhaps will always be the favourite one in our house.

Vibha said...

Sheela, it was just wonderful to read the compiled version, peppered with your brief introduction of all. Great job done :)

Artnavy said...

Love this compilation. Great job Sheela and everyone else....

did anyone take the Dr Seuss quiz?

sandhya said...

@ Choxbox: Thanks :)

@utbtkids: Knew that bit of trivia about Green eggs and ham.

@Prabha: Snort was the high point of the book for us too.

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