a book of Dr. Seuss quotations

Seuss-isms: Wise and Witty Prescriptions for Living from the Good Doctor

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages ?

Dr. Seuss quotations, as selected by ____?

I'd be the last person to dispute that Dr. Seuss had a lot of smart stuff to say. In addition to pure silliness, his books are chock-full of rhymed wisdom.

(Here's our list of all Seuss.)

That's why I was so looking forward to reviewing Seuss-isms, a book of Dr. Seuss quotations. But then I saw the book itself. My first two observations:

1) The book as depicted on my computer screen looked like it would be full-size. No such luck. This is a tiny, little gift book, more likely to be found in a gag store (I would guess) than a book store. The back copy of my edition features a logo with a wrapped box that says, "Life Favors." Here's an apt quote from the book:

Then the Grinch thought of something
he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought
"DOESN'T come from a store."

-How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Apparently this is Random House's line of over-priced little gifts perfect for people you aren't that close to. And frankly, it IS proof that "Christmas doesn't come from a store."

2) There was no editor listed.

Now, a collection of work by a great author relies on one thing: a great editor. Someone to select the work, and to apply some sort of theme to it that renders it meaningful. The fact that no editor attached his/her name to a book of Dr. Seuss quotations? Bad sign.

The book was published some years after Seuss's death. Seuss's widow writes an Introduction in which she states that she thinks her dear hubby would have approved of the collection. But she doesn't seem so sure, and I rather doubt it.

So what we have here is a little book of "Wise and Witty Prescriptions for Living" that purports to be the kind of thing you would carry around in your vest pocket to consult when vexed. But instead of, say, the wisdom of Confucious, we're treated to helpful little tidbits like

I meant what I said
And I said what I meant...
An elephant's faithful
One hundred percent!

-Horton Hatches the Egg

Terrific. So the next elephant I see in a pet store, I should pick it instead of the Golden Retriever?

If a quote requires context to be meaningful, it probably shouldn't be quoted.

By captioning/categorizing all the Dr. Seuss quotations, the anonymous (ashamed?) editor is also guilty of trying to shoehorn some selections into meanings they don't have. Here, according to the editor, is Seuss "On diversity":

We see them come.
We see them go.
Some are fast.
And some are slow.
Some are high.
And some are low.
Not one of them
is like another.
Don't ask us why.
Go ask your mother.

-One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

I'm sure the Supreme Court will use that to help them render judgment on their next affirmative action case!

I think you're getting the idea. It's not that there are NO apt witticisms here - there are. It's just that they're rather few and far between, which is criminal in such a tiny book. I mean, here's a nice one for when one's own butt needs a little kicking:

Seuss on brevity

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.

-Oh, the Places You'll Go!

An accomplished editor - or even a celebrity editor - would have made all the difference here. Someone needed to have a viewpoint. Wouldn't it have been fun to hear what Dr. Seuss quotations Bob Dylan might have selected? Or Stephen King?

No such luck.

It's not often I steer people away from Seuss. But just like Daisy Head Mayzie, this was published after his death and without his okay.

So Seuss-isms (a book of Dr. Seuss quotations might be the right gift for someone who loves Seuss and wants everything related. But otherwise, it's a bit hollow.

Webmaster's note: Seuss-isms for Success, published sometime later and aimed at an older audience, is subtitled "Insider Tips on Economic Health from the Good Doctor." Some have recommended it as a cute gift for a graduating business student. Perhaps so.

Read more of Steve's reviews.

A complete list of Dr. Seuss's actual books.

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