Today we celebrate the life of Theodor Seuss Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) on National Read Across America Day (better known as Dr. Seuss Day). It is not only a noble cause encouraging everyone to treasure and enjoy literacy, but a fitting celebration of one of America’s greatest and most enduring children’s authors and cartoonists. To mark this day, we’ve assembled 5 of the best Dr. Seuss books from his catalog of more than 60 books published across more than 50 years. Whether you’re sharing these classics with a young one or enjoying them by yourself, it’s a fine way to commemorate the birthday of someone who helped so many of us learn to read.
1. Green Eggs and Ham (1960)
This may be the platonic ideal of a Dr. Seuss book, presenting a truly bizarre sense of whimsy and wonder with an impeccable rhythm and rhyme scheme all building to an enjoyable lesson at its end. Besides possibly The Cat in the Hat, no other Seuss book is more common to find on bookshelves than Green Eggs and Ham, and that’s for good reason. It’s a great introduction to both the style and attitudes of Dr. Seuss, an excellent place for new readers to begin and old ones to remember the magic of this great author.
2. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (1990)
Receiving this as a high school or college graduation may now be a cliche, but it’s a very good cliche. The sense of optimism and exploration displayed in this classic serves as a constant reminder of the potential in life. Rhymes like “Will you succeed? Yes, you will indeed. (983⁄4% guaranteed)” serve as a necessary pick-me-up when pursuing new goals and destinations.Oh, The Places You’ll Go! was the last Dr. Seuss book published in the author’s lifetime, and it remains an excellent parting gift to the world.
3. Yertle the Turtle (1958)
Collected with two other stories, Yertleis in the title and on the cover of Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories for a good reason. It is an example of Dr. Seuss doing his best editorializing, make a poignant political statement without disrupting the meter of his storytelling. While on its surface, Yertle’s tale fits well within the zany worlds Dr. Seuss created, it also mirrors the harsh realities of facism and other very real systems (albeit with a very big wink). If you think it’s possible to outgrow Dr. Seuss, then it’s probably time to give stories like this a second look.
4. The Lorax (1971)
Speaking of politically pertinent Dr. Seuss books, The Lorax seems increasingly prescient 45 years after its release. It’s driven by a sense of personal and social responsibility that makes it the angriest of Dr. Seuss’ many books. Even with that anger, it is still an excellent children’s book managing to both delight and educate. This fable of a woodland protector is one of the most narratively-driven Dr. Seuss stories as well, allowing it to be adapted onto the small and big screen in full-length cartoon features.
5. Horton Hatches the Egg (1940)
If you’re looking for a heart-warming story, it’s hard to go wrong with Horton Hatches the Egg. It’s a tale of the commitment, responsibility, and love parents provide their children and the rewards of seeing what that dedication leads to. The kind-natured Horton the Elephant is an incredibly lovable protagonist and his exploits in trying to shelter a tiny egg are endlessly amusing. It’s no surprise this story led to both a sequel (something rare for Dr. Seuss) and multiple adaptations. This is one Dr. Seuss book that belongs on every parent’s bookshelf to share with their child, especially on a day like today.
And now we ask how about you? Are there some favorite Seuss books you’d care to share too?