The two Dr. Seuss books that changed my life

Today is Dr. Seuss’s birthday, and kids all over the country will be donning their red-and-white striped construction paper hats to celebrate (at least that’s part of the festivity at my son’s school). I’m not exaggerating when I say that two of Dr. Seuss’s books changed my life when I was an early reader.

The first was Horton Hears a Who!. This is the story of a benevolent elephant who stumbles upon a civilization floating around on a speck of dust. Because of his super-sized ears, he can hear the workings of this little world, but he has a hard time convincing the other jungle creatures, and the resulting drama illustrates loyalty, believing in yourself, mob mentality and the power of one. When I was a kid, this book opened my eyes to the invisible wonders in this world…the wonderous things I knew were happening but I just couldn’t hear because my ears weren’t big enough (so to speak). I remember having a serious conversation with my parents about life on other planets. “But there’s no oxygen there,” one of them would say, and I’d roll my eyes at their lack of logic and reply: “Not everything breathes oxygen, you know.”

The second was The Lorax. This story of capitalism/consumerism gone awry grabbed my love of nature and turned it into environmental awareness. Dr. Seuss had a way of entertaining while informing that spoke directly to my sponge-like brain.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go! didn’t change my life, but it did remind me that, even as an adult, Dr. Seuss could still weave his magic. It was given to me as a gift the day I graduated from college as gentle reminder about life’s inevitable ups and downs…something every rosy-cheeked college grad needs to hear.

Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss! Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.

Anyone else have a Dr. Seuss story or memory to share?

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  1. says

    I love Horton Hears a Who as well. The line “A person’s a person, no matter how small” always chokes me up!

  2. says

    Hooray for the Lorax love! I think this might be the best thing Dr. Seuss ever wrote, personally. It’s got plot, character, suspense, mood, and even a moral. Plus it’s spectacularly well written (except for two rough parts where he uses “stupid” and “shut up”, something that he’d never attempt these days) and ends on a happy note.

    When my daughter was 3 and a half I counted that she’d memorized over 100 words of that story. The best part came when I was showing off reciting it from memory and she told me I’d forgotten an entire paragraph. And she was right.

    I used to edit the very last line to say “the Lorax and all of his friends will come back” because I thought it was more optimistic than “might” come back. Apparently I was the only one doing that when we read her the story because one day she pointed it out and said, “It says might come back, Daddy. You said will come back.”

    (Meanwhile, the moral of the Cat in the Hat is, “It’s ok for your mother to leave you all alone for the day, and be sure to let strangers in the house, and when she asks, don’t tell her.” and the moral of Green Eggs and Ham is “Peer pressure works.”)

  3. says

    I read “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” for my baccalaureate speech, which took place at the local community church. I guess there’s not many people who can say they read Seuss in church!

  4. says

    P.S. I also got Oh The Places You’ll Go for college. When I got married I realized we now had 2 copies because my wife also had one. I think that’s one that resonates more right at that time in your life, because it’s boring to younger kids, and adults I don’t think find it quite as meaningful as they used to.

  5. says

    the very first book I remember getting was “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” and was thrilled to be able to read it myself. it just gives me a warm fuzzy memory, and I was thrilled to get the toddler version to share with my son.

  6. Jill says

    I’m forty and my father can still recite “One Fish Two Fish”. My son, at 2 yo, named our fish tank’s new algea eater “Clark”. Asked why, he went for “One Fish Two Fish” and showed me “…I found him in the park. I will call him Clark” on the next to last page of the book.

    Happy Birthday Theodore!

  7. Mandy says

    We love the Lorax.
    We have a ban on plastic toys, and once when I was trying to get rid of a hideously ugly teddy bear, my son (maybe 2.5-3 at the time) said, “This isn’t plastic! It’s soft and made out of thneed!”

  8. bittermelon says

    I had Green Eggs and Ham read at my wedding. Unlike Duane (above) who interprets it as peer pressure, my husband I believe that it speaks of trying things outside of our comfort zone, and being open to trying new things (or hearing out new ideas, points of view, etc).

  9. drcorneilus says

    Don’t forget the Star Bellied-Sneeches and Yurdle the Turtle. Also great stories with important lessons.

    For sleepy-time I recommend Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book… “The news has come in from the county of Keck that a very small bug by the name of Van Vleck is yawning so wide you can look down his neck” (Obviously I’ve read it a couple times.)

  10. says

    Horton Hears a Who had the same impact on me. But I think I remember Green Eggs and Ham the most. I remember reading it BY MYSELF for the first time and feeling like I could read ANYTHING. I can still quote most of that book in my head.

    Recently my daughters’ school library ran a contest called “Oh the Places You’ll Read” after the Dr. Seuss book, “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” The contest was to have a picture taken of yourself in a most unusual place to be found reading. Both girls placed in the Top 10.

  11. says

    hi asha –

    hey thanks for reminding me of mr. geisel’s bday!

    well, obviously Dr. Seuss has had a *HUGE* influence on my life… my website is named for one of his books, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, but i would agree with you that Horton Hears a Who is probably my favorite Seuss book. Green Eggs & Ham, Red Fish Blue Fish, and Yertle the Turtle were also formative books in my early years, as were the whole Sesame Street / Electric Company characters and environments.

    As an adult, i also bought a copy of Oh The Places You’ll Go, and i also have a book of Geisel’s artwork that’s pretty amazing.

    I think the thing about Dr. Seuss that i love is that you can feel he never lost the sense for wonder and play even as an adult… which is exactly how i feel.

    Along the same lines as Dr. Seuss, i also feel strongly about the book / music “Free to Be You & Me”, and i wrote a rather heartfelt post on the subject a few years back here:

    anyway, thanks for the warm fuzzies there :)

    – dave mcclure

  12. says

    My favorite growing up was Hop on Pop. My dad would read that to me and my sisters, and then we would jump all over him!

  13. sushil_yadav says

    In response to your views on “The Lorax”, consumerism and “environmental crisis” :

    *The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.*

    The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

    To read the complete article please follow either of these links :


  14. says

    My son just got into Horton, and has me read it to him twice a day. It has to be one of my favorite books, period. When we first got to the part where the Whos all shout “we are here, we are here, we are hear, we are hear”, it choked me up. And the language – wow, the language is just beautiful. The sound of it, and the way it feels as you read it. Dr. Suess is one of our greatest poets.

  15. molly says

    These are my two favorite Seuss books as well. I especially LOVED the Lorax growing up and now realize it had an important impact on who I have turned out to be as an adult. I read it to my little girl with the same love my father read it to me. Thank you for posting this.

  16. mel says

    Although I mostly missed out on Dr. Seuss growing up, I became a voracious Seuss-reader in university. I’ve already got two copies of “Oh The Places You’ll Go” to give to my little ones (five and four) when they leave home.

  17. Jonathan says

    I’m personally a big fan of “Fox in Socks”

    “when Tweetle Beetles Battle in a puddle with their paddles…”

  18. says

    Our very own Megin wrote an essay on the good Dr. Seuss, including a Seussian poem created by her son. I think it’s awesome!

    Also, Dr. Seuss and I share a birthday, which explains my outlook on life:

    “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

  19. says

    Many years ago, a girlfriend gave me “Oh, The Places…” as inspiration for my budding writing career. She broke up with me the following week. And then I told her oh, the places she could go.

  20. says

    Hah – when I was in preschool, I’m told, when some situation would fire up my burgeoning sense of indignation, I’d shout “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues!”

  21. ElinATL says

    My toddler’s favorite book by far is Green Eggs and Ham, and there have been days we’ve read it five or six times. I’m partial to One Fish, Two Fish, myself.

    And the Lorax. . .I get it, I do, but, lord, that’s a grim slog.

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