Doctor-ing Seuss: a cure for the (all too) common Cat
The author calls for a year-long moratorium on reading "The Cat in the Hat."
The Ancients adored their cats, memorializing them with the majestic sphinx. Through well researched non-fiction juvenile books like "Secrets of the Sphinx" by James Cross Giblin, I discovered the genesis of their ardent worship.
However, I must confess that I remain perplexed about educators’ contemporary love affair with one particular feline, a cat renowned for his red-and-white horizontally striped cap. Every year, come March 2 (the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, a.k.a., Dr. Seuss), reports about middle school principals (re)reading "The Cat in the Hat" to a generation of "Hunger Game" enthusiasts abound. Photographs capture strapping high school football players as they attempt to woo second graders from Gerald and Piggie to gaze (yet again) at that same cat in that same hat.
One reporter speculated that "The Cat in the Hat" remains popular because it stayed within the boundaries of political correctness. The notion of political correctness as a gauge for choosing children’s books is ... well, disturbing.
Fifteen years ago, The National Education Association instituted “Read Across America” (celebrated on or near Dr. Seuss's birthday) as a venue to celebrate reading. In the ensuing years, this thoughtful idea has digressed to merely celebrating one book. At the risk of being labeled an iconoclast, I confess the purpose of this essay is to call for a moratorium on reading "The Cat in the Hat" for one year. To that end, I envision 365 days in which teachers, parents, and children read other feline-friendly books that may have been overlooked in the long, dark shadow of that cat’s hat.
My poem foreshadows how the year might progress:
The sun will still rise
When “the cat” goes away
We’ll meet many fine felines
Reading books day by day.
Books with Fabian,
And his friend Hondo too
And we’ll say, “How we love
Learning what new cats can do!”
We’ll follow one so silky and smooth
Wandering Harlem, this cat’s on the move.
With dear old Chester we’ll chuckle and sigh,
We’ll even remember when cats could fly!
Then we’ll read that once cats had paws, but no purr
Some like feathers for lunch and wear ink-covered fur.
We’ll join a kitten as he discovers the moon,
And remember dear Barney, who died too soon.
Yes, we’ll sit there with Sally
Millions of cats at our feet
Realizing a year minus Seuss
Is undeniably sweet.
Author’s Note: Please use this poem as a pretest. If you cannot identify the books related to these felines, perhaps you too should abstain from reading "The Cat in the Hat" for one year.
-Anita Voelker is an associate professor of education at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa.