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9to5to9: Seuss, joy of boy’s desiring

Submitted by on Thursday, 9 October 2008 No Comment

I was shocked when I opened Big Guy’s backpack after school. No huge book?

Wednesday’s library day for the kindergarteners. Every week he picks a big honking book about big honking machines — boy stuff that bores me to tears — or something from the “I Spy” series — beautifully photographed frustration because I can’t spy the stuff I’m supposed to see. I know there has to be a “666″ on each page. That series is evil.

“Hey, didn’t you get a book today?” I asked.

“Yep. It’s in there,” he grinned.

I rummaged again and found a slim red volume. “You got ‘Green Eggs and Ham’?” I asked.

“Sure did,” he said, grinning wider.

Oh, happy day! I couldn’t have been more thrilled if he’d come home with a John LeCarre. Because there’s so much to Seuss that I could read it endlessly and never get bored.

I’m not talking about the tacky big screen Seuss of recent vintage, though I’ll admit I enjoyed Jim Carrey’s Grinch. Mike Myers’ “The Cat in the Hat,” I’ll be polite and stop at “ick.”

I’m talking about classic, unadulterated Seuss. Words so clean yet so powerful I stand in awe of the genius mind that gestated them.

As a writer I admire the technique, the simplicity of “Green Eggs and Ham” and “The Cat in the Hat” — 236 and 49 words, respectively. The latter allegedly stemmed from a dare, when a publisher bet he couldn’t write a book using less than 50 different words. The result might be the ultimate kindergarten book.

I appreciate the subtle social messages of “Horton Hears a Who” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Never hit a kid with a moral at the start, Seuss once said. They’ll see it coming a mile away and run. He and Big Guy must have met in another life.

Then there’s the not-so-subtle message of “The Lorax.” Kind of sad that its tale of corporate greed and environmental destruction resonates 37 years later.

And since the guys came along, I can’t read “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” without choking up.

“And when you’re alone there’s a very good chance

you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.

There are some down the road between hither and yon

that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.”

I’ve been bludgeoning him with Seuss since before he knew his name. OK, so maybe it’s a bit much to expect a month-old’s rapt attention to “One Fish, Two Fish.” But he quickly became glued to the board versions of “Hop on Pop,” “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket” and “The Foot Book,” especially after we developed our own tootsie-swinging choreography for the latter.

Back in the spring, I convinced him to read “Green Eggs and Ham,” the ultimate ode to picky eaters. I’m sure every time I said “Sam I Am,” his brain heard “Mom I Am,” though for the record I’ve never asked him to eat in a box. His eyes got wide at the end when the main character figures out he actually likes green eggs and ham.

He got the moral. Still won’t eat, though.

Now that kindergarten’s lengthened his attention span, it’s all Seuss, all the time.

Not that he loves everything.

“If I Ran the Zoo” flopped miserably yesterday. The plot captured him at first, but the words are so, well, Seussian, that I had trouble reading and he had trouble grasping. “I’m not sure I understand that language,” he said. “What are they speaking?”

He fell asleep last week during “The Lorax,” though it was due more to post-soccer practice exhaustion than boredom.

“Sleep Book”? I think he’s afraid it would make him drowsy, and that would be an awful thing to have happen at bedtime.

But we have a 13-book compilation, “Your Favorite Seuss.” It’s the one he dragged out in July when he came home and told me he had to learn to read. Immediately.

Which means we still have Sneetches and Yertles and a world of other characters.

Oh, the stories we’ll explore.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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