Author/Illustrator: Stephen Collins
My rating: 5 of 5
Dave lives on the island of Here in a neat, tidy house on a neat, tidy street. Every day he follows the same, orderly routine. In fact, he detests disorder, as do all the denizens of Here. But one day everything changes for Dave, one day all the disorder that haunts his nightmares seems to burst forth from his nearly bald body to form a beard. An enormous beard that won’t stop growing no matter how it’s trimmed and treated. A beard so disorderly and gigantic that is seems ready to devour the entirety of Here. So of course, the people of Here do what they have to do; they deem the beard “evil”.
I really enjoyed The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil much more than I expected to. It felt like a mix of Shaun Tan, Dr. Seuss, and The Stanley Parable, not that that makes any sense but it’s true nonetheless. There’s exactly that sort of combination of silliness paired with a deep, unsettling underlying tension. Because this story really is a parable about us all, not one that I could spell out the moral to but one that’s valuable to consider nevertheless. It’s a scary but important reflection on human nature. The textured, stylized art and the sporadic, sometimes-rhymed writing work remarkably well with the theme. Actually, the entire graphic novel is just fitted together in every detail in a way that just works. If you’re at all of a philosophical bent, I would definitely recommend The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil.
Author/Illustrator: Dr. Seuss
My rating: 4 of 5
In the kingdom of Didd lives a small farm boy by the name of Bartholomew Cubbins. Now, Bartholomew has a rather plain hat that he wears nearly all the time, a very ordinary hat with a perky feather sticking up from the top. Nothing special, but Bartholomew likes his hat. But one day, something extraordinary happens: as the king passes by, everyone removes their hats, including Bartholomew. But the king and his whole processing come back to him, insulted, because there’s still a hat on Bartholomew’s head! Bartholomew, the king, the guards, and just about the whole king’s court do their best to bare Bartholomew’s head, but for every hat that’s removed, another appears in its place until it seems like Bartholomew’s snowing hats. Whatever shall he do?
I’ve grown up reading Dr. Seuss since I was little, but I only found The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins fairly recently. It’s fun–fairly different from, say, The Cat in the Hat, but fun still the same. It has more the feeling of an old-school children’s tale, something long ago and far away, maybe by Hans Christian Andersen. With a little bit of Through the Looking Glass thrown in–all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t fix the problem, you know? But at the same time, it does have a certain Seussical quirkiness to it, that sense of fun and whimsy. It doesn’t read in great swathes of rhyme and easily sounded out words, although the reading level isn’t particularly difficult. This would probably be best for readers in elementary school, although it would also be a fun read-aloud story for younger audiences. If I had to guess, I’d suspect that this was rather earlier in Seuss’s writing, so he was still developing his own personal style. But it’s still a great story, and the illustrations are great fun as well–seriously the facial expressions are great! I’d recommend The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins to anyone who enjoys a light-hearted, classic picture book–whether they’re kids or not.
Author/Illustrator: Dr. Seuss
It’s incredible to think about how creative the human brain actually can be, and in this delightful picture book, Dr. Seuss brings this point before his readers with his typical aplomb. He starts out simple, challenges us to think of things we might normally: colors, animals. But before you know it, he’s throwing in creatures and contraptions that never existed before and physics-defying feats of all sorts. All, of course, told in his classic, catchy, rhyming, easy-to-read (phonetically, if nothing else) verse and accompanied by Seuss’s own whimsical and colorful pictures. Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! is a great, engaging read for those just learning as well as an excellent reminder for us all of how fun it is to imagine–or even just to ponder all the crazy things you could imagine if you tried.
Author/Illustrator: Dr. Seuss
The Once-ler tells of a time that was very different from the dark, dreary present. Back then, truffula trees were abundant, bright, and beautiful, and wildlife abounded in the area. But that was before the Once-ler got the bright idea to use truffula trees to make Thneeds and build his business bigger and bigger. . . .
Classic Seuss and a ringing cry for ecological awareness–what more could you want? The Lorax is definitely a classic children’s story, a story that is both fun and a great educational tool. The whimsical, bright illustrations, quirky made-up words, and rhythmic rhymed flow make this an extremely catchy story. I know the kids I know love it, although it’s a bit long for really little ones. Still, for preschool and early elementary this is great both to read aloud to them and for them to practice reading skills. And of course, the story is a great jumping off point for a discussion about preserving natural resources, avoiding pollution, etc. All around, The Lorax is a great children’s book–one adults should probably read more often.
Author: Dr. Seuss
I dare you to read this book aloud three times fast. Okay, so for myself that would be impossible. In Oh Say Can You Say?, Dr. Seuss presents a variety of challenging, vocabulary-building, humorous, and nonsensical tongue twisters ranging in topic from traveling with unusual pets to purchasing gifts. All with the classic Seuss flair, naturally. I’m not typically a fan of tongue twister books–they feel cheap and not literary at all, something like joke books–but I make an exception for this one. This is one of the books that I read/had read to me when I was first learning to read, and I still remember it fondly from that time. It may not be great art, but it’s certainly good fun! Plus, it’s a good educational tool for teaching kids to read and enunciate clearly (or adults, for that matter). Personally, I think that Oh Say Can You Say? is one of those “children’s books” that is both timeless and ageless. And impossible to read aloud!