If I Ran the Rain Forest by Bonnie Worth is a selection from the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library, a wonderful series of books for young readers. These books are entertaining and educational, presenting non-fiction concepts in a basic format to help children build ideas about the natural world. In If I Ran the Rain Forest, the much loved Dr. Seuss character, the Cat in the Hat, is here to tell you about a fascinating part of the world, filled with life! The rain forest is brimming with enormous trees, which are home to amazing creatures, like parrots, monkeys, and frogs. However, this fantastic place is threatened–people are cutting down trees, and so the Cat tells us, if he ran the rain forest he’d say “chop somewhere else, people. Leave us these trees. Don’t cut them down. Save the trees, please!”
To celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss, who was born 105 years ago this month, we held a large celebration at our library centered around his masterpiece Horton Hears a Who, the story of a kind-hearted elephant who discovers an entire city of tiny people living on a dust speck and vows to protect them because, after all, “a person’s a person no matter how small.” It was a pleasure to share my love for Horton with the children who attended our party. Like many of Seuss’s works, Horton Hears a Who teaches us valuable lessons, in this case about tolerance for others’ cultures and beliefs. If everyone was as caring and open-minded as Horton, I believe the world would be a better place. So please read this book to your child! A young person can’t have much of a better role model than Horton the elephant.
My Many Colored Days is a Dr. Seuss book you may not be familiar with. It was published posthumously by his widow Audrey Geisel. He had written it, inspired by the view from his study, and envisioned it to be illustrated by an artist with a completely different style from his own. That mantle was taken up by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, who created beautiful paintings for the book. “You’d be surprised how many ways I change on different colored days,” Seuss writes, articulating how colors can affect, or be used to explain, our emotions, and how our moods may fluctuate throughout the week. My favorite pages are for feeling brown, and sort of “low down,” immediately followed by bright shades of yellow and feeling like a “busy buzzy bee!”
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories is a collection of three great stories by Dr. Seuss, each with a lesson to teach us (as Seuss so often has). “Yertle the Turtle” is supposedly an allegory for Hitler-era fascism (and Horton Hears a Who is supposedly an allegory for Japanese internment camps. Who knew Seuss was so political). Yertle is the king of all he sees, which is a bunch of turtles in a pond. But he realizes if he commands all the turtles to stand in a stack with him on top, he could rule so much more! His plan seems to go swimmingly until Mack, the poor base turtle, does something very impolite… In “Gertrude McFuzz” (one of my childhood favorites) we meet a bird with a bit to learn about envy and vanity, and then there’s “The Big Brag” in which a rabbit, a bear, and a worm argue over who has the best senses. All classics!
Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax is a great jumping off point for educating your child about current issues concerning the environment. Narrated by a regretful character called the Once-ler, it tells the tale of his destruction of the Truffula trees. The Once-ler discovered the Truffula’s tuft could be knitted into a thneed, a sockish, sweaterish thing that despite seeming to lack any utility, starts selling like hotcakes. Motivated by greed, the Once-ler builds a thneed factory, chopping down Truffula trees left and right. Enter the Lorax, a stout mustachioed creature who acts a spokesperson for the trees. He begs the Once-ler to quit manufacturing thneeds–the pollution is endangering all the local species! But the Once-ler fails to heed the advice of the Lorax, and makes a total mess of the landscape, leaving us with an “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”