The timelessness of the Dr Seuss books lend themselves to intergenerational bonding, and I can see how they retain their appeal.
Perhaps strangely, we never really had that many of these books read to us – or to read – as we grew up.
The one book I did have, a gift from someone in my family, was The Lorax. It’s a book I packed with us at each house move, and it has come to Victoria as well. Considering it was stored away haphazardly in the Brisbane suburbs for almost thirty years, it’s in fine form. The only damage it has suffered has been recently at the hands of my kids: impatient fingers at the spine as they try to get it out of the shelves, sticky fingers swishing past a page and tearing off the tip. Small things. But things that remind me it’s now the property of the next generation, who will enjoy it for just about as long as I had it in storage.
Our kids have a set of Seuss books that are getting a workout these days. Each has their favourites, and the eldest is now starting to read the simplest ones by herself (i.e. Hop on Pop). They often quote Seussisms to us and each other.
Reading these books to the kids now – some ours, some from the library – is fun on several levels. I’m often reading them for the first time (e.g. I still haven’t read the proper version of Horton Hears a Who, only the abridged ‘baby’ version my son), realising where some pop cultural references come from, and generally loving the rhymes. I’m a rhyme freak.
I’ve always loved The Lorax because its contrasting bright images are embedded in my mind. If I’d had more Dr Seuss books, maybe I’d have more than one favourite, but this book was by far the one that I remember the most as a formative childhood text. It had so much that I responded to. The first time I read it to my daughter (when she was about 3-ish), I remember getting choked up and slightly teary at the end when I got to the why of “Unless”.
Recently, we all went to see the 2012 movie, The Lorax. It was the first movie we went to as a family (and our son’s first cinema movie ever). It had jaunty colours, superb animation, catchy scores and a witty, credible back-story.
The only thing I didn’t like was the fact that the Onceler was a human being; I relished the idea of the Onceler as some unknown and mysterious creature, of which we only ever saw a gruvvulous glove and sometimes his arms and legs. In the book, he had no face and we didn’t know what he was. I liked that. In the movie, he’s an initially likeable guy, who slowly becomes consumed by greed. The tone was about the same, I guess, but the effect of making him a normal guy… I was disappointed.
What the film did was show me what happened when someone acted on the “Unless”. I never realised how much I was waiting for this until we watched the movie and it took things past just getting the last truffula seed. It was probably too sledgehammery with the ending and the ‘message’ of the whole narrative was laid on thickly throughout, but I was happy to suspend my cynicism for it. I don’t always require a happy ending, but getting this one – after over thirty years – was satisfying in the extreme.