Sunday, March 2, 2014

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

Everyone knows the name Dr. Seuss. It's a household name worldwide. His books are consistently praised to this day. Why is this one man such a legend and what makes Dr. Seuss so special to me?  

All my life, as long as I can remember, I've known about Dr. Seuss books. He's been with me since the days I slept in a crib and I owe a lot of who I am today to this man, as I'm sure many of you do as well. To me, the stigma around Dr. Seuss is a lot like The Harry Potter Series. Everyone knows and loves his books because they're just amazing. They're timeless and wonderful and the messages carried out in Dr. Seuss' books are ones that have stuck with me forever.

When I was three years old, I dressed up as The Cat in the Hat for Halloween. I had the cat outfit and the hat and the bow tie and a drawn on nose and whiskers. Let's just say I was pretty damn adorable. The Cat in the Hat is probably (as far as I know) the most famous, well-known Dr. Seuss book and with good reason. This book was created in order to give children a more entertaining reading primer than the classic Dick and Jane books. The Cat in the Hat is a mischievous creature and, along with Thing 1 and Thing 2, he makes a mess of the children's house. But, that was the fun part about the story! It gave children an introduction to reading. I feel like The Cat in the Hat taught, and still teaches, kids that reading is an escape. They could have fun and get the satisfaction of making a giant mess without actually making a giant mess!

I definitely remember owning almost every Dr. Seuss book as a child and I'm sure they unknowingly contributed to the love of reading I have today. I have vivid memories of reading Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Fox in Socks, Hop on Pop, The Foot Book, I Wish That I Had Duck Feet, and In a People House. I don't remember owning Horton Hears a Who, but that book and many others became important in 2010 when Dr. Seuss entered my life once more. I was cast in a musical at the theater I'd took classes at my entire life. It was Seussical; The Musical. Being in that show holds some of my greatest memories and it's all thanks to Dr. Seuss.

Something that I find endlessly interesting about Seuss' abundance of books is looking back on them at the age I am now. First off, it's fascinating to think about how I received these books as a child and what they mean to me now. But, another intriguing thought is to learn that Dr. Seuss created characters and plot lines in some of his books based on certain people and actual events that were happening in the world at the time they were written. I think it's amazing to study those parallels. For example, let's study The Cat in the Hat. Wikipedia connects The Cat's personality and character to those of typical American con-artists. This theme was popular at the time. Do you see how it's similar to The Wizard of Oz? The fish in the story is often analyzed as connected to Christian beliefs since that's what fish sometimes symbolize in literature. Dr. Seuss himself once compared the fish to Cotton Mather, the Puritan moralist who advised prosecutors in the Salem Witch Trials. Isn't that so cool?! Okay, maybe I'm just weird for finding analyzing things like this interesting, but I just can't help it.

Now, all the morals and hidden meanings are fine and dandy, but what I think really connects me to Dr. Seuss' books and draws me in is the whimsy of his stories. What I really love about these books, the thing that truly makes Dr. Seuss a favorite of mine, is that fantastical feeling you get when reading his works. It's utterly unmatched. The only comparisons I can really think of are two of my other favorite old authors and creators; Roald Dahl and Walt Disney, himself. The book I find the most whimsical and magical also holds the title of my all-time favorite Dr. Seuss book. And, that would be Oh, the Places You'll Go!.

Oh, the Places You'll Go!, to me, is the ultimate Dr. Seuss book. It's the epitome of what makes him such a great author. Published in 1990 (only 4 years before I was born), Oh, the Places You'll Go! was the very last Dr. Seuss book published before his death in September 1991. I think part of this book's magic is the way it's written. Unlike most of Dr. Seuss' works, Oh, the Places You'll Go! is written in second person and uses future tense. It makes the reader feel like Dr. Seuss is talking right to them. When reading this book, you can't help but leave with a sense of motivation and empowerment. I think that this book is the most relate-able book for adults and an AMAZING lesson to teach young children. It's never too early to be motivated and learn that your possibilities are endless. And, on that note, I think I'll end with a quote.

"You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go."
-Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss. May your legacy live on for years to come.

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