Our favorite Dr. Seuss books
He was born 102 years ago — on March 2, 1904 — and by the time he died, in 1991, Theodore Seuss Geisel had written and illustrated 44 books. Those works have inspired movies, TV specials, even a Broadway musical — but it’s the books themselves that have meant the most to millions of children: captivating them, enchanting them, making them giggle, teaching them to read, maybe even getting them to eat a hated vegetable. Here, a list of our five favorites for your child’s bookshelves:
Horton Hears a Who (1954)
”On the fifteenth of May, in the Jungle of Nool/ In the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool/ He was splashing … enjoying the jungle’s great joys…/ When Horton the elephant heard a small noise” — coming from a Who, a beleaguered speck of dust. The kind, lumbering Horton immediately becomes the dust mote’s protector, shielding it from the other animals of the jungle, until an eagle swoops in and carries it away. Horton has to convince his invisible friends to pipe up and make their existence known.
The Cat in the Hat (1957)
”The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house/ All that cold, cold, wet day.” With nothing else to do, and with no parents at home, two small children — Boy and Girl — let Cat into the house, where he wreaks havoc, doing all manner of naughty, forbidden things until just before Mom and Dad get home (they manage to vacuum up the mess just in time). Children can just revel the absurdity of the tale, or their parents can use it to illustrate a larger, more somber theme: Should you let a stranger into the house?
Yertle the Turtle and Other Tales (1958)
”On the far-away Island of Sala-ma-Sond/ Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond…” But being king of the pond isn’t enough for the greedy Yertle, so he decides that his subjects should climb on each other’s backs and create a massive throne for him, a plan that backfires when a little turtle tells him, ”I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down on the bottom we, too, should have rights!” Seuss’ tale has a deeper implication for adults, of course, but children will learn that it just isn’t nice to be bossy.
Green Eggs and Ham (1960)
”I am Sam…Sam I am,” proclaims the persistent, wily, top-hatted narrator, as he cajoles his unseen friend to try a dish of green eggs and ham (”Would you eat them with a fox? Would you eat them in a box?”). Finally, of course — after many pages of wacky rhyming persuasion — his subject gives in, just like reluctant toddlers might when faced with a new food. Possibly the most popular of all the Seuss books.
The Lorax (1971)
”At the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows and the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows and no birds ever sing excepting old crows… is the Street of the Lifted Lorax,” begins Seuss’ sweet and impassioned plea for the future of the planet. It’s the story of the Once-ler, who discovers a land of magical plants and animals and then destroys it for his own wishes (the Truffula Trees make excellent socks), despite the pleas of the Lorax. But the Once-ler repents and, at the book’s end, children discover he has saved the seed of a Truffula tree.
Parents, note: All five of these books — as well as eight others — are combined in one volume, Your Favorite Seuss: A Baker’s Dozen By the One and Only Dr. Seuss (Random House, $34.95). But the book is a little heavy for little hands, which might prefer the lighter, smaller originals.