A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that McElligot's Pool, which earned Dr. Seuss his first Caldecott Honor, is the story of a skeptical adult's failure to persudae an optimistic, daydreaming boy to abandon his fishing hole. First published in 1947, it's been criticized for its sterotypical portrayals of people and fish from faraway places. There's an image of "Eskimo fish" in stereotypical costumes.
What's the story?
Imaginative Marco fishes patiently in MCELLIGOT'S POOL, a cow pond with a lot of potential. The boy believes an underground brook connects McElligot's pool with the sea. Via this route, he explains to a skeptical farmer, countless fantastic, finny creatures are sure to find their way to Marco's hook. Lovely watercolor illustrations earned Dr. Seuss his first Caldecott Honor.
Is it any good?
This is among the most beautiful of Dr. Seuss' books. In lovingly painted watercolors, he renders underwater scenes in swirling blues, grays, and greens, and in one two-page picture, a lovely little city of pastel buildings and telephone poles nestles among rolling green hills beside a blue-gray ocean. Beneath the city, the sea flows in a subterranean channel straight to McElligot's pool (for literate fish, there's a handy sign pointing the way).
Despite its beauty, McElligot's Pool has some probelmatic language and imagery: It uses the term "Eskimo" and depicts "Eskimo fish" in a sterotypical manner. It's also a little flat compared with other Dr. Seuss books. Apart from the farmer's good-natured jeers, the story features little conflict. Another reason for the comparative lack of vitality might be that Dr. Seuss' invented creatures still resemble real ones. And in this book, Dr. Seuss' wordplay had not yet reached the exuberant pitch it later achieved.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the optimism shown in McElligot's Pool. Do you think the boy ever catches anything in the pond?
Do you think imagining all the creatures below could be as much fun as catching an ordinary fish?
What do you think of the fish the boy imagines? Do any of the pictures seem to make fun of the people or fish in them? How would it feel if someone made fun of you?
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