Friday, August 31, 2007

In Praise of Horton

Among the collected works of Dr. Seuss, Cat in the Hat is probably the most famous. Or maybe How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Possibly Green Eggs and Ham. Very good books, all of them. But for Ellie's money (and mine, for that matter) Horton is where it's at, no contest. And if you're not reading the Horton books with your kids (or any kid that you love), you absolutely should be.

Horton, specifically in Horton Hears a Who!, is a Seussian political hero at his unassuming best. And, especially in a time of war and waste and smallness of mind, Horton Hears a Who! speaks to essential themes of integrity, service, and enlightenment. Horton is about believing in something when everyone else thinks you're crazy. It's about being loyal and brave and standing behind an unpopular opinion. It's about sticking by a friend, even if that commitment leads to your own persecution. It's about following your personal moral compass and ignoring the voices of sour kangaroos (who look a little bit like Ann Coulter, but I digress...).

Mostly, it's about taking care of the least of your brothers, the people without a voice, the people getting lost underfoot, the people struggling to survive. Because, after all, a person's a person, no matter how small. And is there a better message for our children than that?

Postscript: The message may be a little lost on 3-year-olds. Ellie was grousing at and refusing to share with her 10-month-old brother and, when reminded that "a person's a person, no matter how small," she said, "Jimmy's not a PER-son." Of course. A person's a person, no matter how small, unless they are a little brother, richly deserving of your wrath.

Additional Postscript: Be sure to check out the cartoon version of Horton Hears a Who! from 1970. It's a bonus feature on the Grinch DVD, and it's even better than the book. The songs were written by Dr. Seuss, the animation is by Chuck Jones, and the voices (namely the guy who voiced Captain Hook) are great, so great that you will find yourself (poorly) imitating them when you read the book aloud. Enjoy, and look out for Wickershams.

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