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The Angle, March 2019 – Book Review

On March 2, we celebrated the birthday of beloved children’s author Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, which provides the inspiration for the National Education Association’s annual “Read Across America” day, celebrated the day prior. It’s a perfect pairing, as Dr. Seuss books are often the gateway to most young children’s first reading experiences. For March’s book recommendations, we revisit Dr. Seuss classics, which in true Seuss fashion, are heartfelt and hilarious, and educate readers about caring for one another and our world.

For Infants and Toddlers

The Sneetches and Other Stories

by Dr. Seuss (Random House $16.99) Age 2-7

The Sneetches all talk alike, act alike, and look almost alike, all except for the small green star on some Sneetch bellies. These Star-Belly Sneetches considered themselves superior and snubbed the Plain-Belly Sneetches for years, until a stranger with a miraculous machine showed up to print stars on any Sneetch who asked.

It’s a whimsical plot with equally whimsical illustrations—which, in classic Seuss fashion, make the story clear to even pre-verbal children—but immediately recognizable as an allegory of racial discrimination. The resulting confusion and eventual acceptance provide a simple but powerful lesson about tolerance, equality, and the arbitrary nature of social exclusion.

The three other stories offer their own gentle life lessons: “The Zax” illustrates tolerance as the road to personal freedom, and how being stubborn and inflexible will hinder our growth throughout life; “Too Many Daves” humorously reinforces the value of individuality; and “What Was I Scared Of?” is a tale both spooky and sweet, providing a gentle lesson about fear and empathy.

For Preschool and Beyond

The Lorax

by Dr. Seuss (Random House $14.95) Age 3-8

Dr. Seuss published this classic environmental allegory in 1971, and it’s been a children’s best-seller ever since. Speaking through the character of the “Lorax,” Seuss expresses real concerns that are even more resonant today, about the exploitation of natural resources and our responsibilities as stewards of our planetary home.

It’s a serious subject, skillfully disguised for young readers within Seuss’s trademark whimsy. Brilliantly memorable rhymes and weirdly undulating illustrations capture our attention, as we learn (from the now-remorseful Once-ler, who participated in the land’s destruction but may also hold the key to its renewal) about the fuzzy yellow Lorax, who spoke for the trees and warned against rampant deforestation and ecological disaster before vanishing. Despite the dire themes, the book leaves us with a hopeful warning that’s making fresh rounds on social media in our own time: Unless someone like you … cares a whole awful lot … nothing is going to get better … it’s not.

The Butter Battle Book

by Dr. Seuss (Random House $16.99) Age 4-9

You might not think a cautionary Cold War tale, first told by Seuss in 1984, would make for giggle-inducing reading with preschoolers—but think again!

As Grandpa tells of the fractured history between the Yooks and the Zooks, who clashed primarily over how to correctly eat buttered bread, their increasingly zany antics begin to resemble the runaway spending and one-upmanship of the U.S.-Soviet era.

Boasting Dr. Seuss’s familiar and relatable wacky illustrations, the story also contains plenty of silly made-up words, making it accessible to young readers, and sending a subliminal message to adults about the futility of modern war. This book may serve as an effective allegory for our times—and an even more effective laugh generator.

Note: Age recommendations are based upon publisher guidelines and parent feedback. Prices are publisher’s list; discounts are usually available.

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