I love Dr. Seuss. Not because his illustrations are intriguing or because the rhymes just don’t stop, although I do sincerely love that. I love Dr. Seuss’ work because he does what fiction does best and he does it really well.
I have a really high opinion of fiction; I value it more than a true story. Good fiction offers a surface level narrative, but also allows for a deeper meaning. This deeper level can even be taken at face value OR, because of the structure of fiction, it can be reflected from the reader’s worldview and turn into a third meaning.
Dr. Seuss understood this, and he added another level by designing the stories to be children’s books. I’m not sure if it was a subversive way to get a message to the parents or a way to translate events and character traits into an easily understandable narrative, but whatever his goal, it works.
I was reading Yertle the Turtle today to my class. In the story, Yertle (who isn’t a super fantastic king anyways) takes a turn for the worst and the reader finally takes the side of the suppressed turtles…which is almost exactly what happened in the world before and during the Holocaust. I realized that if I ever have my own children, teaching them about Hitler might be easier with the aide of this story. It’s oversimplified, sure. Sometimes, though, that makes the terribleness more real. It’s hard to relate to Hitler’s obsession with power, but to wanting to be higher and to see more the world around you? Sure, I get that. Genocide is almost unfathomable to me, but using other people to achieve your goals despite how it affects them, I’ve see that to be used by others on a less intense level.
So, take time some time soon to pick up a Dr. Seuss story and try to read it on a level that you haven’t yet tried and you will see that I have not lied.