The Doctor is in… (Seuss, not Who)

When a writer dies, their heirs can allow some pretty strange things to happen to their works. It’s anyone’s guess if the author would approve of these extensions to their art.

Either way, I don’t approve of the explosion of posthumous Seuss products. It’s my hangup, I know. But who is this really all about anyway?

Most of these offerings strike me like an over-the-top commercial adulteration of a masterpiece.  And when the Lorax (Mr. Enviromental) was marketing SUVs… Well, let’s just say that misguided shameless greed knows no end.

But back to the Doctor’s real work. These are my top 5 Seuss read alouds selected to celebrate the Doctor’s Birthday (excluding a couple I’ve already covered).

The Lorax

The environmental advocate and his warning to the corporate world.

Cat in the Hat comes back

If only there was nothing that a little “Voom” couldn’t clean up! (But then what would the Lorax do with his free time?)

The Sneetches

We could stop trying to one up each other… but as that’s historically unprecedented, the Sneetches have a lesson for us.

Green Eggs and Ham

Serving up the iconic classic. Don’t even tell me you haven’t read it!

There's a Wocket in My Pocket

Silliness and being OK with who you are, or at least the house you live in.

I Rescued this Book From a Librarian Who Sentenced it to the Dumpster

By Ruth Brown

No, I didn’t dumpster dive to obtain this book. The librarian in question had determined that this book was too beat up for the dignity of her shelves. On that particular day I happened into the library after school and she offered A Dark Dark Tale to me. Were it not for 3M’s Fabulous Book Tape it would not still grace my bookshelf. But, a decade or so later, it endures.

I like this book, but wasn’t going to include it my blog. However, on Halloween I ominously read of the dark, dark mystery hidden in these pages. When the secret was revealed (and my class burst into laughter) I knew that it was indeed post worthy.

Never Underestimate Little Old Ladies… at Halloween

Little Old Lady

Feminism meets Halloween? Not exactly, but in this classic story the little old lady truly isn’t scared of anything.  In spite of being stalked through the woods, she refuses to be bullied by any number of Halloween spooks and works the situation to her advantage in the end.

Strong female lead characters weren’t exactly the order of the day in the 80s; so this one stands out. Predictable text and repeated words (yes this was a product of the Whole Language heyday) definitely target this book toward the preschool/Kindergarten crowd. But even my first graders got a laugh out of it.

Alpha Goes Retro

A Long Piece of String

An alphabet book without letters! That was William Wondriska’s innovative idea in 1963.

Just how does that work? Well, it’s a series of images tied together with a really long piece of string.

It’s fun to watch students try and find the pattern in this book. Once mine did, I was met by great big smiles and shouts of, “I get it!!!” Congratulations WIlliam Wondriska! It still works today.

Old School Samplin’

A Great Day for UP

It’s a great day for UP!  And in this lesser known Dr. Seuss classic, the narrator tells everyone in sight to get UP.

I have very clear memories of my father reading (and consistently laughing at the ending of) this book. Maybe it’s just the joy of remembering him reading to me, and his rare laughter, that makes me enjoy this simple story.  But if it’s read with gobs of energy, I love it!

What up? Dis Book!

Yo! Yes?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty committed to discussing race relations with children.  Yo! Yes? Is another entry point by which I attempt to pull this off.  It also affirms so called “non-standard” English.  (More on that at the bottom).

But even if you could decontextualize the racial and linguistic elements in this story (as if that was possible), it’s well worth the read.

Sometimes an entire dialog can be reduced to one and two word sentence exchanges. Chris Raschka tells an entire story through these nearly monosyllabic exchanges.  It’s beautiful.  It’s different.  It’s so worth reading.

About “non-standard” English : No one holds the “Master version” of English.

Sometimes I hear teachers giving their students grief for speaking AAVE (African American Vernacular English) as if it is “wrong” and the teacher has the “Gold Standard Version”.  But that notion doesn’t have a linguistic leg to stand on.

English is in constant evolution. It varies over time; Shakespeare’s English is hardly like “our” English.  It’s predecessor (Saxon English) is a quantum leap away.

It varies based on location; English in Australia, Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the U.S. are all measurably different. Even within the U.S. you have distinct “accents” regionally: Boston, the South, the Midwest,..  Going one step further, different groups have their own variety of English.  Some of the better known examples are AAVE, Boston Italian, Surfer and Yooper (Upper Peninsula of Michigan).

This isn’t to say that one doesn’t hear linguistic error within a variety of English. (Young children especially make hilarious errors.) But that’s not normally what I see get “corrected” in school.  What is “corrected” is not linguistic error.  It’s linguistic variation; and variation doesn’t need correction.

So who’s “standard”?  It really depends are where you are in time and space.  No one has “the goods” all to themselves.

If you are totally into this sort of thing, Dialects in Schools and Communities and Children Language and Literacy are good places to start.

Dialects in Schools and Communities                                   Children Language and Literacy

The Jackie Robinson of Picture Books

The Snowy Day

Long before it was trendy to write about African Americans, Ezra Jack Keats wrote an entire stack of such books.  The Snowy Day really was the the Jackie Robinson of picture books: shattering the racial barrier in the mainstream market.

I’ve read this beautiful poetic tale to my children so many times that I have it memorized.