This year is the 75th anniversary of Theodor Geisel’s first book,“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.” It’s worth celebrating. Dr. Seuss changed reading and the way it was taught.
Almost 60 years ago, Mrs. Morgan read the book to my second grade class.
This was Geisel’s first book, and it had been rejected by 28 publishers. The author had previously been told by his high school art teacher he had no talent, but he persisted with his dream. Dreaming is really what his book is about.
“Mulberry Street” remained Dr. Seuss’ simplest narrative; no hidden agenda like “The Cat in the Hat,” where critics now question why the parents are not home caring for their young children. A full-length animated feature has just been released based on another Seuss classic, “The Lorax.” The movie has a not-so-subtle message about our stewardship of the earth’s resources and corporate greed. Maybe he should have named it“And to Think That I Saw It on Wall Street.”
While Mrs. Morgan read “Mulberry Street,” I sat there mesmerized as Marco’s imagination took him to places he had never actually gone. Each image was a building block to a new one, another exciting layer about what he saw on the way home from school. His tale kept getting bigger … and better. At what point was it a lie? That’s a fine line. People ask me, “Did the stuff in your column this week really happen?” “It was based on truth,” I say. Thanks for the lesson, Marco.
Marco knew when he got home his fantasy would not fly, and chose not to face the scowl of a doubting father who, ironically, had lectured him on being observant. Dr. Seuss wished Marco could have shared his fantasies with his dad. Then the two might have celebrated the value of a boy’s vivid imagination.
Unwittingly, Marco’s father had stifled his son’s creativity. As teachers and parents, we should guard against this. When I was a kid, I was proud of the wisecracks that had earned me detention at school, and I would share them at the dinner table. After my father’s death, my mother told me Dad sometimes had to excuse himself from the room so I wouldn’t see him laughing. He thought if I saw him enjoying the joke, it would encourage me to continue my disorderly behavior.
I totally understand my father’s concerns. I just wish there had been a doctor in the house.