If I Ran the Circus

by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss's If I Ran the Circus

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 4-8

I'm hoping that we can all agree that if Dr. Seuss had run the circus, it would have been a bigger deal than even the Super Bowl.

After all, this genius has entertained generations of us with his crazy creatures and their imagined features. (For instance, the flying elephant-bird in Horton Hatches the Egg, to name one of hundreds.)

So when young Morris McGurk starts imagining If I Ran the Circus, you can bet that a slew of new species will be inhabiting the pages.

Morris has an empty lot in mind, just behind Sneelock's Store, for his Circus McGurkus. There will be

  • a Drum-Tummied Snumm
  • a Remarkable Foon
  • a wink-hooded Hoodwink, and a
  • Wily Walloo

Not to mention a lion that's partly a trout!

Of course, there will be acrobats and other exhibitions of stunning, otherworldly skill, and whenever some performer has to bravely put his life on the line, young Morris imagines that Mr. Sneelock (the man with the store) will casually step forward, whether to inspect the teeth of a Spotted Atrocious, or to slalom on Roller-Skate-Skis through a forest of Stickle-Bush Trees.

If I Ran the Circus

Don't expect a story, but rather a stunning exhibition of imagination as Seuss details Morris's circus. It's hard not to think of young Morris as Seuss's own alter ego. This reader-author began to imagine himself in Seuss's shoes, wondering whether the art preceded the verse or the verse the art.

In other words, what comes first: the illustration of Sneelock wrestling a giant Grizzly-Ghastly, or the need to rhyme with "slam him down fastly"?

We'll likely never know, but we can certainly enjoy the result. Appreciate the complexity of this verse while imagining the accompanying illustration:

And while THAT goes on THERE, look at THIS go on HERE!
Have you heard of my herd of "Through-Horns-Jumping-Deer"...?
Every deer jumps through horns of another pell-mell
While HIS horns are jumped through at the same time as well
By a deer whose horns ALSO are being jumped through
By another who's having HIS horns jumped through, too,
Which I'm SURE Trainer Sneelock can train them to do.

Seuss amazes with his own unique brand of derring-do in If I Ran the Circus.

Complete list of Dr. Seuss books.

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