Emmanuelle’s challenge over at Words and Peace requires me to pick up and read books that were published in the first years of my life.
I originally thought I would complete this challenge by reading adult books, but the challenge logo puts me in mind of snuggling up with a book as a child – and so I’m reading some of the books I might have read then.
My birth year, 1954, saw the publication of Horton Hears A Who!, by Theodor Seuss Geisel aka Dr. Seuss. This is Seuss’ 11th book and the second (and last) in the series featuring the lovable elephant.
In the book, Horton’s huge ears, which have hearing superior to all of the other animals, hear a small voice emanating from a dust speck that floats by. The speck of dust is actually a tiny planet, home to a city called Who-ville, inhabited by microscopic-sized inhabitants known as Whos. He rescues the dust by placing it on a clover, but the news that Horton is hearing voices spreads throughout the jungle. In order to save themselves, the Whos must make themselves heard to the other animals, and that requires the efforts of every Who in Whoville.
Dr. Seuss’ books are beloved for their lively rhymes, wacky vocabulary, and beyond-imaginative drawings.
And while kids are enjoying all that, they’re learning life lessons. In Horton hears a Who, these include:
• the importance of not giving up, no matter how tired you might be;
• the value of each person’s contribution, no matter how small, to the overall effort of the group (although this bordered on promoting nationalism); and, of course,
• a strong anti-prejudice message, that could be applied to size, color, (dis)ability, or any other factor which could set anyone apart as “different”.
Geisel’s birthday, March 2, has been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America Day, an initiative on reading created by the National Education Association. Although I’m not a big celebrator of birthdays, I thought it an appropriate day to feature a book that I knew and loved as a child.
This past week, I mailed an animated video of Horton Hears a Who! to my grandson Steven. I hope that after he’s watched it, he’ll be open to hearing the story read to him over the phone.
In addition to the Books Published in the First Years of My Life challenge, this also qualifies for the Illustrated Year’s Picture Book Challenge, and several TBR & off-the-shelf challenges.
Afterthought: Wikipedia says:
Geisel’s pen name is regularly pronounced /ˈsjuːs/ SEWSS, an anglicized pronunciation inconsistent with his German surname.
He himself noted that it rhymed with “voice” (his own pronunciation being /ˈsɔɪs/ SOYSS) and Alexander Liang (his collaborator on the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern) wrote of him:
You’re wrong as the deuce
And you shouldn’t rejoice
If you’re calling him Seuss.
He pronounces it Soice (or Zoice)
Geisel eventually switched to the anglicized pronunciation because it “evoked a figure advantageous for an author of children’s books to be associated with—Mother Goose” and because most people used this pronunciation.
So what’s YOUR favorite Dr. Seuss book?
For Canadian readers:
Horton Hears A Who!