Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who!
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
Horton the Elephant is Dr. Seuss's most saintly character
I can't believe I'm about to quote a bible verse. I've never done that before.
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
“Should I put this speck down?…” Horton thought with alarm.
--Horton Hears a Who, 1954
Dr. Seuss was Jewish, and yes, I just quoted the New Testament, but the messages of Horton Hears a Who! will reinforce the love thy neighbor/golden rule spirit of any religion.
Just look at sweet Horton, Seuss's most nurturing character (you have read Horton Hatches the Egg, haven't you?), looking back at you from the front cover. The guy just wants to love! (I gave him some Gandhi glasses because, well, that's how I see him!)
Horton's big ears hear voices calling for help from a tiny dust speck that floats past as he's taking a bath in the cool of a pool in the Jungle of Nool.
He can't see the creatures, but he can hear them. Unfortunately, that puts him at odds with the smaller-eared denizens of Nool, who not only can't see the tiny dust speck beings, but can't hear them either.
The other Noolians not only aren't willing to take Horton's word for it, but they're rather mean-spirited about it. If Horton wants to protect a speck of dust, well, then they want to put it at risk. The speck, which resides on a clover, is snatched from Horton and given to Vlad Vlad-i-koff, "a might strong eagle, of very swift wing."
[And] he let that small clover drop somewhere inside
Of a great patch of clovers a hundred miles wide.
Well, if you know what Horton went through to hatch that egg 14 years earlier, it won't surprise you that Horton dutifully paws through all that clover to relocate that dust speck.
And know that Horton wasn't imagining those voices. Those are Whos, living in Whoville (three years before How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Whos were rather smaller), and their very existence is at stake.
Not that these are helpless beings. They're just small! Unfortunately, to survive this confrontation with the vicious denizens of Nool - who would rather beat Horton and destroy his speck than incorporate new data into their belief system (look at that: now I've worked in Galileo and the Catholic Church), the Whos are going to have to prove their own existence.
Since they're too small to be seen, they're going to have to shout and make a lot of racket. Their lives depend on it!
And with Horton's encouragement, they manage. They manage to save themselves.
Horton Hears a Who!
This is a true Dr. Seuss classic, perhaps his most complex moral work. Horton is certainly Seuss's kindest character, and it's wonderful to be able to visit with him again. (Seriously, if you've never read Horton Hatches the Egg - reviewed on this site - it's just as good, and a tearjerker to boot.)
It's great fun too to see Whoville in such detail. (Even if Horton and the other inhabitants of the Jungle of Nool can't, readers can.)
At 72 pages, this is not only a book of substance, but a substantial book - not a quick 3 minute read.
Horton weathers a lot, again, to stand up for what's right, what he believes in, and those less able to defend themselves. Frankly, it's hard to think of a more important book to have in your child's library than Horton Hears A Who!
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