My daughters, Dr. Seuss, and Me
May 14, 2016
I HAVE THREE DAUGHTERS, who once were young, oh so long ago.
With each of them, I had the same ritual. When bedtime came, we would retire to their rooms, and I would read books to them. I know it sounds old-fashioned, but that’s what we did.
One of the most wonderful things about our routine was that it gave me a chance to read Dr. Suess.
I dare anyone to direct me to a collection of books that are more fun than Dr. Suess’s. They bent almost to the breaking point all the rules of writing. Made-up words, strange rhythms, fantastic creatures that somehow seemed believable, these were the stock in trade of Theodor Geisel, born one hundred and eight years ago today.
In a time of vampire books, werewolves, horrific volumes of blood and gore, we would expect that the works of Dr. Suess might have fallen out of favor.
Not so. Even today, his books remain high atop bestseller lists, still fascinating children who listen to them with eyes popping and hearts giggling.
I bet today’s young parents still cherish those Dr. Suess moments with their babies, times when the known world recedes into one so different, so pure in its irreverent relevance.
For Dr. Suess understood that it didn’t matter how you told a story, so long as it reverberated with universal themes, themes like fairness, kindness, goodness, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
In a Dr. Suess story, we always knew good would triumph over evil. The Grinch wouldn’t be a grinch forever.
How about some green eggs and ham?
I do not like them Sam-I-Am,
I do not like green eggs and ham.
Is that a cat wearing a hat?
“I know some new games we could play,”
Said the Cat.
“I know some new tricks,”
Said The Cat in the Hat.
“A lot of good tricks.
I will show them to you.
Will not mind at all if I do.”
Ah, but we knew that what was coming was every trick a mother would forbid. For good reason, too. It didn’t matter, because we knew things would come out all right in the end. Mother would return, and her kids would keep to themselves a wonderful, forbidden mystery about a few minutes when a strange creature broke all the rules, but managed to put things back together, whole again, touched by a scrape with pure imagination and joy.
What lessons do we take from late-night, pre-snoozing sessions with Dr. Suess?
Have fun, be good, love one another, cherish uniqueness, don’t judge a book by its cover–these are only a few.
It’s bedtime for me now. I wish my little girls were here.
Stephen Woodfin is the author of The Revelation Trilogy, a series of legal thrillers.