A Book for Obsolete Children:
You're Only Old Once!

by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss's You're Only Old Once! A Book for Obsolete Children

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 105-5!

A Dr. Seuss for adults...and the children who love them

The great Dr. Seuss often used the 2nd person - addressing his reader directly as you - when directing his subject matter to everyone, that is, when he considered a theme universal.

(Think Oh, the Places You'll Go and Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?)

Well, there's nothing more universal than aging, and it gets the full Seussian treatment here.

The setting isn't far off Far-fa-falloo or the pancake covered mountains of Timbuk Thirty-Two (I just made those up!), but it's a place just as bizarre, with creatures just as unlikely and creations just as inexplicable:

The doctor's office.

One day you will read
in the "National Geographic"
of a faraway land
with no smelly bad traffic.

And you'll find yourself wishing that YOU were out there
in Fotta-fa-Zee and not here in this chair
in the Golden Years Clinic on Century Square
for Spleen Readjustment and Muffler Repair.

That universal you is about to meet an assortment of self-assured specialists with an array of absurd medical testing devices just as incomprehensible as the real things.

Dietician Von Eiffel controls the Wuff-Whiffer,
our Diet-Devising Computerized Sniffer,
on which you just simply lie down in repose
and sniff at good food as it goes past your nose.
From caviar souffle to caribou roast,
from pemmican patties to terrapin toast,
he'll find out by Sniff-Scan the foods you like most.

And when that guy finds out
what you like, you can bet it
won't be on your diet.
From here on, forget it!

Of course, the Wuff-Whiffer has to be seen to be fully appreciated. (Page down for a glimpse at part of it.) As does the endless office, with doors full of doctors, ready to do their thing on any and all obsolete children who happen by.

Right now you are riding down Stethoscope Row.
And I know that, like all our top patients, you’re hoping
to get yourself stethed with some fine first-class scoping.
So I’m sure you’ll be simply delighted to hear
that in the Internal Organs Olympics last year
Doctor Schmidt, Smoot, Sinatra, Sylvester, and Fonz
won fifteen gold medals,
nine silver,
six bronze!
For the moment, however, we’ll by-pass this bunch.
There is plenty of time to see THEM after lunch.

You're Only Old Once! A Book for Obsolete Children

Seuss published this book for the "obsolete child" when he was 82, five years from his death. Clearly, he approached the medicalization of old age with the same wry, observational eye that he applied to every other aspect of life that he chose to opine on.

The hapless bald-headed man at the clinic is just as alone and mystified by all that confronts him as a newborn. But because that man is really Dr. Seuss, he endures what he does without bitterness, and even with a little hope. Here's how he ends the book:

And you'll know,
once your necktie's
back under your chin
and Norval* has waved you
Godspeed with his fin,
you're in pretty good shape
for the shape you are in!

*Norval is the clinic goldfish!

So why are we reviewing a book for obsolete children on a children's book website?

Well, it's written by Dr. Seuss, and frankly, it has the look and appeal of the finest Dr. Seuss books. And since children inevitably have aging forebears going through exactly what this beleaguered gentleman is going through, it's surely a book distant generations can enjoy together.

And something else...

That you that the book is addressed to? Well, as soon as he arrives at the clinic he's living a child's life. Everything is strange, everyone is strange, and he lacks any control over his destiny.

Seuss You're Only Old Once

(Back up.)

You think a child can't relate to that?

You're Only Old Once! A Book for Obsolete Children...and the current model children who love them.

Complete Dr. Seuss book list.

Read more of Steve's children's book reviews.

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