Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Weekend Wordsmith: Seuss

"The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day. I sat there with Sally, we sat there we two and oh, how we wished we had something to do. Too cold to go out and to wet to play ball. So we sat in the house. We did nothing at all. And all we could do was to sit, sit, sit, sit and we did not like it. Not one little bit.

Then something went bump" (or is it thump) "how that bump made us jump. And we looked and we saw him step in on the mat. We looked and we saw him. The cat in the hat. And he said to us Why do you sit there like that? I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.”

A show of hands if you know the book those words are from.

I did not look those words up. Those words are stuck in my head. I did not work at memorizing this book, and I don’t have children. So how, you might ask, how did I memorize these.

Well many years ago I taught nursery school. I worked in the youngest class which was mostly two year olds. Most of the morning (nursery school, not day care) was devoted to free play. (An explanation of the educational philosophy of the school is available on request, but will require me to do a little research. The basic thought was that all children learn at a rate based on their cognitive development and when presented with appropriate materials will learn what is appropriate for their level of development.) The children could choose between art projects, painting, blocks, puzzles, dress up, the indoor slide or books. Each day included reading a book to the entire class, but children could also request to have a book read to them during the free play time.

The Cat in the Hat was a favorite in our classroom. I must have read that book at least a hundred times that year. If you’ve ever been to a story hour you’ve probably seen the reader holding the book up in the air to one side so those being read to can see the pictures. This usually requires a certain amount of twisting by the reader to make the pictures visible while maintaining the ability to read the text. It’s a skill I developed but rarely use these days – there’s not much call for it in my current line of work. So now I’ve got you wondering what that has to do with The Cat in the Hat. After a few dozen readings of the book I no longer needed to see the text. The repetition had imbedded the text in my mind. And probably 90% of it is still there.

There are many things that I remember which I’d just as soon forget. These words are not in that category. The words of Dr. Seuss are a treasure that I am happy to carry around in my head. In addition to the bulk of The Cat in the Hat I have bits of Green Eggs and Ham, a favorite from my childhood, and bits from several others. I must admit, however, that I was introduced to Horton Hears a Who by my college roommate who was appalled that I hadn’t read it (thanks RT). And Dr Suess’ Sleep Book - the verbal imagery in that book is so strong that I cannot get past about page 5 without yawning. By the end of the book I’m usually ready for bed, or at least a nap.

A few years ago my wife and I spent a weekend in Springfield, Massachusetts hometown of Dr. Seuss (and my father). The Quadrangle in downtown Springfield is home to the Dr. Seuss National Memorial. There are statues of several characters from his books, and one of the Dr himself. Amy and I had great fun examining the statues and figuring out which Seuss books were represented. Fittingly the Cat stands guard by the Dr’s chair. The picture above is a close up of the Cat statue.

More Weekend Wordsmith: here.

1 comment:

self taught artist said...

I couldn't raise my hand...only because I don't remember reading and books in my childhood (although I know I was exposed to them and read to bed at night). I was more interested in playing and screaming.
I LOVE knowing that there are Dr. Seuss sculptures somewhere out there. Much more interesting than the usual animals or stocky nudes.