December 26, 2007

A Dr. Seuss Surprise

I don't do book reviews here so to the following about a child's book is really off the beaten path for me.
My four year old daughter received a number of Dr. Seuss books from relatives in Ohio and last night she and her mother snuggled onto the couch to read her new books before bed. Half way through the first one my wife suggested that I read "The Butter Battle Book" and what I found was a little shocking. This was not his cute rhyming kids fare you find in works like "Green Eggs and Ham" and I don't know what age group Dr. Seuss was aiming for but this was not a what I would call a children's book.
In his early years, Seuss gained fame as a political cartoonist and a collection of his WWII work can be found at "Dr. Seuss Goes to War". (I tried to include examples that you may find relevant to today)

This book, written in 1984 during the era of Reagan's military build up, is a metaphor for the cold war. Two sides are at odds over which side their bread should be buttered on and live on opposites sides of a long low wall. An act of aggression by one side starts an arms race that eventually ends in both sides standing atop a now very tall wall holding the new "Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo." (I got the impression that this was probably a take off of the Little Boy bomb of WWII)

Besides the fact that it was not age appropriate for a four year old, the premise that the cold war was some small disagreement between the US and the USSR was shallow if it was targeted at an older audience. Also the ending left the two sides looking at each other without a resolution. If as I suspect Seuss was a part of the disarmament movement of the day, he could have shown what mutually assured destruction would look like. Or if he would have had the foresight of Reagan he could have pictured the wall coming down.

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