Wednesday, August 17, 2016

One Fish, Two Fish....The Wit and Wisdom of Theodor Geisel

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
"I like nonsense.  It wakes up the brain cells.  Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.  It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope, which is what I do.  And that enables you to laugh at life's realities." ~Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel)

And that sentiment is obvious when you revisit his books, or see the bronze statues depicting his famous characters.  I had the delightful pleasure of seeing 6 of these statues on display at Dow Gardens, in Midland, MI, and can't wait to re-read the books!  I happened to see the traveling exhibit advertised, grabbed a friend who would understand my child-like excitement, and hurried over, as it closes on September 1.

The Lorax
Stepping out of the visitor's lobby and into the garden, The Lorax started us on our journey.  Such a delight!  The detail in the sculpture was amazing, as was the story behind the character.  The Lorax is actually considered to be the beginning of the Green Movement, encouraging the preservation of natural resources.   It was also Seuss's favorite book.

I am The Lorax, I speak for the trees
I speak for the trees, 
for the trees have no tongue."

"UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better.  It's not." ~ Dr. Seuss

Familiar character #2 doesn't need much of an introduction.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
The Grinch is actually modeled after Geisel himself.  Apparently he looked in the mirror the day after Christmas and saw a Grinch-like face staring back.  "Something had gone awfully wrong with Christmas or maybe with me," he said.  Tired of the over-commercialization of the holiday, and the worry that the true meaning of Christmas was getting lost in all the trimmings, he sat down and wrote this timeless tale.

Moving on to the Children's Garden, we couldn't miss it's centerpiece.  

The Cat in the Hat
The Cat in the Hat was written after Houghton Mifflin challenged Geisel to "write and illustrate a child's primer using only 225 'new reader' vocabulary words."  I am sure I would have a difficult time with that challenge but it's obvious he was able to do so, with great success. 

My personal favorite is this next one, a story I have loved since I was a child.  But I never understood the significance of this story until I read the backstory on this visit to the gardens.


I just gave away my Yertle the Turtle book, and hope my grandchildren love it as much as I did. They are too young to know that this is actually an allegory on dictatorship and expansionism! In an interview Seuss is quoted as saying that Yertle was actually Hitler or Mussolini, but he took the mustache off his character before it went to press. The message?
"And the turtles, of course...
all the turtles are free as turtles 
and, maybe, all creatures should be."

Geisel used the word "maybe" purposefully, allowing children to think about what he was saying here, and come to the realization that there was no "maybe" about it.

Yertle the Turtle
After Yertle I was satisfied and thought I could have stopped there, but then there stood Sam with his Green Eggs and Ham!

Green Eggs and Ham
This particular story I am not familiar with, but after this experience I am planning on reading these stories with new eyes.  A National Education Association survey of children and teachers ranks Green Eggs and Ham as 3rd in their 100 most popular books.  It seems that Geisel loved a good wager, as this story was written after his publisher bet him $50.00 that he couldn't write a "cogent and entertaining book" using no more than 50 different words.  With this book he proved that wager wrong, and spent the rest of his life "complaining," good naturedly, that he never got his money.

And just when I thought I couldn't be delighted any more than I already was... there was Horton and friend, sitting tall above what looked like a mass of little Who's!

Horton Hears a Who
What a great sculpture, and setting!  A symbol of "loyalty, equality, and faithfulness",  this character came into being after Geisel visited some schools in Japan after WWII.  At that time individualism was a new philosophy and this informed his theme for Horton Sees a Who:

"A person's a person, 
no matter how small."

So much fun!  A lot of this information came from the placards near the statues, but there is also a very nice website with even more information, on the traveling exhibit as well as on Geisel and his other projects.  For instance, did you know he had an extensive hat collection?  He had so many that he turned his hobby into another book - The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

I highly recommend viewing these and other sculptures when you can, as well as visiting the website at  There is also a Facebook page titled The Art of Dr. Seuss, and another page dedicated to, and called, Dr. Seuss.

Fun Fact:  Ted Geisel said he wrote for adults, not children.  His wife said he really didn't like children very much!

There is something about tapping into that long-forgotten child within that is rejuvenating.  
Try it!


Christine said...

Chloe loves her Yertle the Turtle book from Grandma! Chase will hate it when I tell him it's about Trump, though.... ;)

How cool!

Jeanie said...

These are marvelous! I have a late September wedding in Midland and I may have to make sure I go early enough to see them! Thanks for the tip!