Yes, I am cramming them in, so this is a nice, easy one to choose. I actually did mention it when I first started the challenge in December, so it’s only a little slack of me. Besides it allows me to make another public service announcement.
As far as children’s literature, it is hard to argue with Dr. Seuss’ prominence in our culture. He, Theodore Geisel, contributed more than just a Cat or a Grinch; he pretty much revolutionized the way we teach our children to read. This Monday, March 2 is Read Across America Day, which just happens to be Dr. Seuss Day too [it’s his birthday!]. In honor of the great man of words, parents and teachers (and anyone with 15 minutes to spare), are encouraged to read to children. The National Education Association through kidthing.com is even offering four free e-book downloads of classic Dr. Seuss books, including Horton’s own tale. So celebrate everyone’s favorite rhymer and make a kid’s day. You could even make a day of it with Horton in book form and his full-length animated film. If you want to eat green eggs and ham too, that’s entirely up to you.
Personally, I was glad to hear that Horton was going to get his chance at a revival. These days a film version is a guarantee of related merchandise and what better gift to get than a book, I ask you? His story, seriously now, is such a good one for children of all ages. If you think about it, the Cat and the Grinch really are scoundrels. Horton the elephant, however, is a good guy, who speaks out for what he believes in and for people who cannot speak for themselves. To summarize: Horton discovers another world within his own larger world, a subculture if you will. He defends their rights to exist, despite resistance and attacks from others in his community, including a couple of rude kangaroos. In the long run, he helps the little Whos find their own voices and he teaches the others a lesson in equality and tolerance: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
Of course the film has its own script to follow, and it is probably not too surprising to learn that they changed the story more than a bit. They did have to try to stretch it out to the standard 90 minutes. So, the Mayor of Whoville gets a wife and many kids, there is some added drama and even a dose of social satire. The main plot is maintained, but sometimes it is hard to tell. In this case, though, I say “So what?” It is silly enough for kids and parents will enjoy some of comedy’s biggest names as the voices of Horton (Jim Carrey), the Mayor (Steve Carell) and the Kangaroo (Carol Burnett). The cast is full of other great comic voices too. The animating team, which also worked on Ice Age, has done a wonderful job of creating modern Whos and also maintaining the classic Seuss look.
I have to admit that there have been problems with Seuss adaptations in the past. I was not impressed at all with The Cat in the Hat starring Mike Myers, and though it has become a holiday standard and I have found the kids watching it in July, The Grinch version which Carrey did is way over the top, and at times grates the nerves to a fine point. I like both actors, but they both seem to have forgotten that one of Dr. Seuss’ universal appeals is that it is clean fun. Kids really do not need to add extra potty-humor to their lives. Maybe Horton is saved by being animated instead. Not only does it mean we are not seeing Carrey in an elephant costume, but it also maintains a little more of the Seuss whimsy. Though it could definitely use a few more rhymes.