Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss

Rating: 5 stars

The holidays are coming, and I know you're tempted to buy a bunch of toys for those kids on your list.  Don't do it!  Don't give in!  I urge you to consider two things: books and experiences.  Since this blog is supposed to focus on just the first of these two things, I'll do my best to stay on track and give you some great books to buy for your kids.

Like this one.

A classic!  If it's not on your child's shelf, rectify the situation and order it right now.  There are three books in this collection, which is my favorite Dr. Suess collection.  His rhymes shine and make both big and little kids (also known as grown-ups and children) giggle, but the poems deliver a punch: each one has a masterful life lesson that make me grateful for reading them every time I do.

I'm Yertle the Turtle! Oh marvelous me!
For I am the ruler of all that I see!
I remember the first time I read these three stories to Lorelei.  My rump was perched on a pint-sized chair and she sat, mesmerized, as I read line after line.  She was three.  (I think that's a little young for this collection, but better too early than not at all.)  I wasn't a fan of Dr. Suess because I thought him long-winded, like the crusty, pompous professor who can't stop himself when he gets going on a lecture, and drones on and on, amused with himself but losing the crowd.

But these books woke me up from my not-a-fan sleep and I have pledged my allegiance ever since.

The first story is of Yertle the Turtle, a greedy turtle king who realizes how low his thrown is, and forces all the turtles around him to make a stack so that he can be taller than his current perch.  He keeps making turtles stack up higher and higher and higher so that he can see more and more and more until suddenly--you saw this coming--one of the plain turtles down below politely complains that his back and shoulders hurt.  Yertle doesn't care and stacks on and on, but the turtle on the bottom burps innocently and shakes the whole stack.  Since Yertle was so high, he fell far.  Ker-plunk into the mud, of which he is now king.  "And the turtles, of course...all the turtles are free / As turtles, and maybe, all creatures should be."

The second story is of Gertrude McFuzz, a funny bird-like creature that has one puny tail feather and wants more and finer tail feathers, like a popular little gal she knows.  She makes a big fuss to her uncle-doctor, who gives in and gives her the secret: go to a pill-berry vine and eat just one berry.  No more!  Of course, after a fine tail feather pops out of her behind moments after eating the first berry, she gobbles still more, until her tails are gorgeous and full and...very, very heavy.  Since she could neither run nor walk, all those tail feathers had to plucked out, one by one.  Ouch!  See?  Accept yourself as you are, nods the wise Dr. Suess.  It's better that way.  Save yourself the plucking hassle.
Then the little old worm gave his head a small jerk
And he dived in his hole and went back to his work.

The third is "The Big Brag."  A rabbit and bear (both male, I should point out) engage in a silly fight over who is the best.  They perform impossibly stupid feats--the rabbit explains how his ears can hear a fly cough from over two mountains away and the bear says his nose can smell one stale egg in a nest in a tree next to a farm that is beyond far away far.  To break up their rift, a worm pops up and explains that he can see (chuckle, chuckle!) better than they can hear and smell.  And he stares this crazy serious stare and makes up a crazy serious story about what he sees.  He goes on and on adding distance until:

And I kept on looking and looking until
I'd looked 'round the world and right back to this hill!
And I saw on this hill, since my eyesight's so keen,
The two biggest fools that have ever been seen!
And the fools that I saw were none other than you,
Who seem to have nothing else better to do
Than sit here and argue who's better than who!

Funny stuff that has a wonderfully serious, important lesson.  Does it get better than this?  Not really.  That Dr. Suess is one of a kind...

No comments:

Post a Comment