A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a jaunty, upbeat journey packed with wacky landscapes, buildings, monsters, and musical instruments. Even those who don't understand Dr. Seuss' message will be swept up and marched cheerfully along. This classic, which encourages perseverance and taking adversity in stride, has become a common gift for graduates, from grade school through college.
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What's the story?
Our hero (a cheerful little guy in a yellow jumpsuit) receives the narrator's good wishes and heads out of town. He travels through a wide variety of colorful Seussian landscapes and cityscapes and finds himself in many different situations -- some exhilarating, some depressing, some downright frightening. At one point he gets stuck in the Waiting Place, where "everyone is just waiting ... waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake / or a pot to boil, or a Better Break / or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants / or a wig with curls, or Another Chance." At another moment, he's riding high on an elephant's back with a triumphant banner flapping overhead. At another he's rowing a tiny rowboat through a black lagoon full of howling, long-necked Hakken-Kraks. The plucky protagonist faces each challenge and extricates himself from each Hang-up, Lurch, and Slump. His success is "98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed"!
Is it any good?
This is the last book Seuss wrote, so it is easy to get sentimental about it; yet it's an inspiring, poignant work on its own terms. The illustrations are a little shaky-looking compared with earlier ones, and there are one or two flaws in the rhyme's meter, but otherwise it is as beautifully crafted as anything Dr. Seuss ever wrote. And the message is clear and moving: Life can be extremely tough at times, but we will be just fine if we keep on the road and tackle each challenge as it presents itself.
Though Dr. Seuss was still alive when this book was published, some critics sensed it was his last. It does seem like a retrospective of his career: Horton-like elephants parade the hero triumphantly along, carrying flapping banners or canopies. A psychedelic interior decorated with billowy, colorful stripes resembles a circus tent, bringing back memories of If I Ran the Circus.
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