McElligot's Pool
by Dr. Seuss


Dr. Seuss's McElligot's Pool

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 4-8


A book about possibility and a positive outlook

A farmer happens upon a boy fishing in a tiny pond. He laughs at the boy, calling him, "sort of a fool..."

You'll never catch fish
In McElligot's Pool!

The farmer proceeds to give the boy a laundry list of reasons why there can be no fish in this pond, and indeed the boy has already gone three hours without a bite.

But that doesn't matter to this boy, because he's having the time of his life just imagining what he might catch. And the farmer's naysaying sways him not at all. The boy explains...

'Cause you never can tell
what goes on down below!

This pool might be bigger
Than you or I know!

The poor farmer has already gotten in his final word. The remaining 95% of the book is devoted to the rich potential the boy sees in this tiny pond.

It might be connected to "one of those underground brooks." It might reach the sea, it might reach the tropics, it might reach

Some Eskimo Fish
From beyond Hudson Bay
[Who] might decide to swim down;
Might be headed this way!

In Seussian fashion, the Eskimo Fish of the boy's imagining have fur hats and follow a sign that reads, "McElligot's Pool, 4227 Miles."

This book is very much a precursor of Seuss's Oh, The Places You'll Go, but instead of the author leading the reader, it's the child in the book who shows us the way to proper imagining.

After listing all the crazy fish he fancies making their way to McElligot's Pool, the boy explains to the befuddled, speechless and imagination-poor farmer,

Oh, the sea is so full of a number of fish,
If a fellow is patient, he might get his wish!

The reader is confident that even if nary a wondrous fish is caught today, the boy won't consider the day at all a waste, and he'll be back tomorrow.

That makes this a great glass-half-full book, a great positive outlook book.

And the color!

Review continues.

The top image is reproduced from one of the actual paintings, rather than copied from the book

If you think of Seuss as working with a limited palette - say the shades of blue and red in The Cat in the Hat, then you're in for a very pleasant surprise.

Half the illustrations in McElligot's Pool are black and white, but the other half are in glorious full color.

(They were taken from Seuss's paintings, rather than his pen and ink work, as was usual.)

It's a rare joy to see such unrestrained Seuss, but appropriate to a book about a boy who imagines all the wonders of a coral reef beneath the surface of the muddy pond before him

These illustrations improved my outlook! Know that Seuss won his first Caldecott Honor (for art) for this book.

(You do know Seuss - Theodor Geisel - was a real artist, don't you? Check out The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss.)

McElligot's Pool is nothing less than a celebration of positivity and imagination.

If I wait long enough, if I'm patient and cool,
Who knows what I'll catch in McElligot's Pool!

Child having a tough day? Maybe they're just looking at things the wrong way. Here's a book to turn things around.

More children's book award winners.

Complete Dr. Seuss book list. (By the way, this early Seuss classic is included in at least one Dr. Seuss book collection. Let us show you!)

Read more of Steve's reviews.

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