Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose

Book review by
Robyn Raymer, Common Sense Media
Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose Book Poster Image
Morality tale with a darkly funny ending.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Thidwick's friends ostracize and desert him. Animals act rudely.

Violence & Scariness

Hunters shoot at Thidwick. After he sheds his antlers, the "guests" who've made their homes on the moose's head appear (dead and stuffed) in a grisly display. Earlier, some animals pull out Thidwick's hair and drill holes in his antlers.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that readers will instantly side with poor, put-upon Thidwick (whose misery is depicted in expressive, funny cartoons). They'll love to hate the freeloading "guests" who load down the kind moose's antlers. Witty, bouncy rhyming text with near-perfect meter models excellent language skills. Some information about antlers.

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What's the story?

When a Bingle Bug asks to make his home on Thidwick's antlers, the good-natured moose agrees, but soon the bug invites other creatures to join him, and Thidwick regrets his generosity. The hapless host becomes weighted down with \"guests,\" including a woodpecker who gouges huge holes in his antlers, a family of squirrels who move into the holes, a hive full of bees, and a fat bear as big as the moose himself.

When poor Thidwick starts to swim across the lake to forage for food, his selfish guests forbid him to go. Next, some hunters try to shoot the moose, hoping to mount his head on their club wall. Hampered by the heavy freeloaders, Thidwick is almost killed. But suddenly he remembers: Today is antler-shedding day! Light-headed and happy, Thidwick swims across the lake to join his friends. The guests end up stuffed and mounted over the hunters' mantelpiece.

Is it any good?

One of the funniest and best aspects of THIDWICK is Dr. Seuss's expressive manner of rendering the moose's misery. As the Zinn-a-zu bird plucks out Thidwick's hairs (one by painful one, 204 in all) for a nest, the poor animal's squinched-shut eyes, flattened ears, and furrowed brow make readers wince and laugh at the same time. And when the moose moss on the north side of Lake Winna-Bango runs out, the nasty guests forbid Thidwick (by a "democratic" vote) to swim across to the south side. The dejected moose creeps out of the lake like a drowned rat as the guests reach across his antlers to shake hands, congratulating one another on their selfish triumph.

For adults who like dark humor, the final tableau is hilarious: All of the guests, including the bees and the spider, have little cartoon kicked-the-bucket x's for eyes, and their stuffed corpses are posed artfully on Thidwick's former antlers above the Harvard Club mantel. Young readers are liable to agree with Dr. Seuss that it serves the creeps right, but some parents won't want to endorse such vindictiveness.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about hospitality, generosity, self-sacrifice, and exploitation. What would you do if you felt someone was taking advantage of your good nature? Are there ways of standing up for yourself without being hurtful or unkind to to others?

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