The Genius of Dr. Seuss

Rosa and I read Sneetches last night, and a few of his other stories recently. Ever since Rosa was born we, like most other parents, have been collecting Dr. Seuss books. We read them to her often, less for a little while while she was learning to read very simple books all by herelf. More now that she is reading more complicated books. But in re-reading them again, and again, and again, I am struck by how entertaining they are, and/or powerful. He appears to have been a keen observer of human behavior, especially of the more infantile of human behaviors in adults. So without being preachy and irritating, he’s found a great way to pass on his morality stories to kids.

Rosa noted how some of the kids in her camp were like the Star-belly Sneetches, and unless you had a certain kind of dress or looked a certain way, they wouldn’t let other kids play. ‘But’, she pointed out, ‘they don’t make friends at the end at camp, like in the book.’ My husband and I explained that, well, the Sneetches are just a story so Dr. Seuss can make them all friends by the end. In reality, it can take years for the ‘meanie-heads’ to change. In the meantime, I told her, ‘you can be smarter than the snubbed Sneetches, and go and make up your own games with your own non-star-belly friends. You don’t have to sit on the beach with the Sneetches at all. They should have had their own weenie-roasts.’ Or in our cases, sci-fi conventions, in place of weenie-roasts.

I thought it was interesting that she also understood what McMonkey McBean was doing, robbing all the Sneetches of their money because they were wasting it on something that didn’t matter. She said, ‘He’s mean. He’s taking their money because they’re unhappy, and pretending to make them happy.’ That made me feel a tad better when I thought about all the beauty product placements on television, designed to make young, or older women feel insecure about their appearance only to remedy their ‘problem’ with crap they don’t need that costs a fortune. Now when it comes on television, I can point to it with Rosa and yell ‘McMonkey McBean’, and she understands.

Now as for the ‘Pale Green Pants with nobody inside them’… I’m sorry, but I consider that one of the first horror stories I ever read. I remember reading about the Pale Green Pants that followed the main character all over town, riding bikes and in deserted meadows in the dark, basically stalking him. I understand what Dr. Seuss was getting at, that the bad thing you think is going on might not be as bad as you think, and that you are scary from someone else’s perspective. However, I don’t care. Independently animated pants that show up in unlikely places cannot be anything but a recipe for terror. And I found, after I read that story again as an adult that it had somehow grown even more creepy, because I didn’t know what a stalker was when I was five. Now the story features an invisible stalker. Eek! But since I sometimes write horror, I have to say that it is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories, even though it was probably not intended to be scary.

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One Response to “The Genius of Dr. Seuss”

  1. Love your commentary about Dr. Seuss!

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