Why Dr. Seuss is for Twenty-Somethings Too

I’ve always loved Dr. Seuss. He was my go-to as a child. As my six-year-old book-connoisseur self would tell me now, he was the best because his books were short, colorful, and poetic. (Sure, I wasn’t smart enough to use words like poetic, but what I would probably say is “this dude knows his rhymes.”) Rhymes were easy to memorize, reenact, and drive my parents nuts with (over and over and again). I’m surprised they didn’t pretend it was lost like the VHS of 101 Dalmations.

One of my other favorite things about Dr. Seuss is that he features talking animals. Ducks, turtles, elephants, and made up creatures like The Grinch, the Whos, and The Lorax. I remember thinking that all of it was amazing. Dr. Seuss created things up that made no logical sense, and he had the power to make things that weren’t real feel real. When I was a kid, I knew that when I grew up that was something that I wanted to do too.

Recently I looked over some of my favorite Seuss works, and I realized just how much hidden meaning there is in his work. I didn’t realize how much of it can be applied to life in your twenties. I thought it would be interesting to do an interpretation of his books from the perspective of an adult. Because I enjoy reading a lot into things, especially things that are for children, here you are:

1) One Fish, Two Fish
I learned how to count from this book! Maybe it was incorrectly because after one and two, red and blue aren’t a thing—so my math skills have always been off, but these fish definitely fostered an early love for words. Plus, you learn just how many types of “fish” (people) there are in the world for you to meet!

2) Hop on Pop
When I was little I thought this was a book about why you should jump on top of your dad for fun. I also thought that all pups belonged in cups. Turns out, dogs don’t fit in glasses well, and if you jump on your dad, he’s going to get pissed off. But the hopping can also be a metaphor. Pick up a phone and call your dad. Hop on Pop is definitely a great tool to learn about father-daughter bonding, no matter how many unresolved daddy issues you have.

3) McEliggot’s Pool
“Young man, said the farmer, you’re kind of a fool, you’ll never catch fish in McElligot’s Pool!”
What a silly pessimistic farmer. McEliggot’s Pool is a magical place where anything can be hoped for. So what if it’s a pool full of trash? MAYBE, just MAYBE it connects to the ocean, and Marco believes that he’s going to fish something amazing from it! He hopes and hopes, and if he stays “patient and cool, who know’s what he’ll find in McElligots pool?” Keep being optimistic about all of the fish that there are for you to discover within your life! Are you more of a farmer or a Marco?

4) Green Eggs and Ham
Try everything! You never know what you might like, but don’t be so stuck in your ways! That guy without a name claims that he doesn’t like green eggs and ham for the entire book, and in the end, he loves it. How many things do you “hate” that you haven’t tried? How many people do you “hate” that you’ve never actually spent any time with? Go on, find out if you like green eggs and ham. Don’t be so stuck in your ways. You might like them on a fox or in a box. You never know.

5) Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can you?
Oh the wonderful things Mr. Brown can do! (Because he tries and isn’t afraid to look stupid). He can moo, buzz, hop, and pip! (fish kiss). He doesn’t suppress any of it, and neither should you! If you need to moo, moo! Don’t keep all of your moos inside of you so that they get backed up and one day you have to REALLY REALLY have to moo. Use your voice often and as much as you can! Don’t be afraid to do crazy things with it you never thought you could! Just start mooing, you won’t regret it.

6) The Butter Battle Book
WAR! The Zooks and the Yooks are at war with one another! Here are two weapons for you to fear if you ever hear about them on CNN: “The Jigger-Rock Snatchem” (three nets to fling rocks) and the “Kick-A-Poo-Kid” (Poo-A-Doo powder and ants’ eggs and bees’ legs and dried-fried clam chowder, carried by a dog named Daniel). Woah. DANIEL. DANGEROUS. In the end, each side gets a small destructive red bomb called “The Bitsy Big Boy” to blow one another up with, but they have no defense against it. While lots can be said on what Dr. Seuss was trying to say about the arms race and nuclear weapons, don’t let any of your current relationships get to this point!

7) Did I ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?
“When you think things are bad,
when you feel sour and blue,
when you start to get mad…
you should do what I do!
Just tell yourself, Duckie,
you’re really quite lucky!
Some people are much more…
oh, ever so much more…
oh, muchly much-much more
unlucky than you!”

Right? Great reminder. I need to hang this one up on my wall.

8) The Lorax
Everytime I re-read The Lorax, I want to cry. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read, and I have a bachelor’s degree (which means I paid a school to be able to read a lot of things). If only the Once-ler had listened to The Lorax! “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Preach. Whether it’s the environment, global poverty, racial issues, the economy, anything really, this is true. Way to teach us how to care as young ’uns Dr. Seuss.

9) Are you My Mother?
When I was a kid, “Are you my mother” was great because it made me question who my mother was every single day. Seriously, I asked her 47 times. She got so fed up that one day she just turned to me and said “No.” This was confusing, and caused a year or so of identity issues, but eventually I figured out it was a joke. I remember being obsessed with this book because the duck really didn’t know who his mother was. Why? Didn’t he know he was a duck? Why was he so lost? Wasn’t anybody looking for him? Can someone please get him a mirror? He very clearly doesn’t want to be a duck, even though he’s a duck. I can relate. Twenty-four year old me can still look at “Are you my mother” and find some meaning. I think now, this book is all about finding a female mentor, or the job that is the right fit for you. Eventually, you will find the duck who is your mother. I have faith.

10) The Cat in the Hat
I used to think The Cat in the Hat was the coolest, because he was the dude who did super cool stuff to Sally and I’s house while their mom was out. But now that I’m older, I can see that he’s basically the equivalent of the shitty friend you have in high school who peer pressures you into throwing a party at your parent’s house when they’re not home. Seriously, what a jerk. Thing one and Thing two suck too. Don’t let any Cats wearing hats get in the way of what you’re doing.

11) The Grinch that Stole Christmas
You can help anyone grow their heart three sizes, or grow your own heart three sizes if you believe in love and human kindness. Any old grouch can be turned around if the Grinch can!

12) Yertle the Tertle
Yertle is the worst King and dictator ever. He is a model on how to not run your country. Dude got what was coming to him for standing up on all of the turtles. He is exactly like Regina George. You can only suppress people for so long before they get pissed about it. RESPECT OTHERS AND THEIR SPACE. Or they’ll burp on you.

13) Horton Hears a Who
THE SMALLEST PEOPLE IN THE WHOLE WORLD MATTER!l A person’s a person no matter how small. You have to speak up for those who don’t have a voice, because maybe other people just can’t hear it or don’t think it’s important yet in the world. You could be the person who facilitates this happening! Don’t be like the other animals Horton is friends with and be closed off to new concepts just because you can’t see them yet. You never know!

14) Today is Your Day

“Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

As a 20-something, I will say that this is a lot of pressure BUT it is also accurate. Treat every day like it is your day. Don’t write it off! You can steer your day as you wish! Although sometimes I do wonder if this book written in the 1990s is a great example of why our generation really does think it’s possible to do EVERYTHING and why we are often referred to as “entitled.” Duh. Today is OUR day.

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