When I think about violence in literature, Dr. Seuss isn’t usually the guy who comes to mind. Recently, a man was trying to have Seuss’ classic beginner book Hop on Pop banned from the Toronto Public Library. He claimed that the book was promoting “violence against fathers” and that the library should “issue a public apology” as well as pay for any damages resulting from the book.
That’s some pretty hardcore dislike of Dr. Seuss.
But then I thought, HEY. This guy is obviously pretty upset about the whole fuzzy creatures hopping around on their dad issue. Let’s have a look from his perspective, shall we?
…Maybe our beloved Dr. Seuss isn’t so innocent after all?
Literary Indignities I Have Found
Yurtle the Turtle is a classic tale of a king turtle who is dissatisfied with his throne. Or…perhaps it is a story that encourages anarchy, being that the one sneezy turtle at the bottom of the stack ends up toppling the tower of turtles (and consequently the social hierarchy that Yurtle has been happily building).
In Horton Hatches an Egg, Horton is forced to look after Maize’s egg when she no longer wants to be a mother anymore. Endearing story of loyalty? Or does this book really promote the willful abandonment of children?
For that matter, Thidwicke the Big Hearted Moose saves his own hide from the hunters who are pursuing him at the end of the story by ditching his friends who are living in his antlers. At the end of the book, it’s not Thidwicke that ends up dead and stuffed on a wall–it’s his friends. In this way, it’s kind of like Seuss is saying “throw your friends under the bus to save your own butt!”
And of course, my favourite: Green Eggs & Ham. A fun book about trying new things? Perhaps…unless you look at the dangers that might arise from trying green eggs and ham in real life. Does Green Eggs & Ham in fact diminish the apparent dangers of consuming botulised food?
YOU BE THE JUDGE.
My Good Friend Subtext
No, really. It’s a good idea to use your judgement here. I mean, I just spent the last four paragraphs making up a lot of crazy stuff about some pretty great kid’s books. Why? Because I can.
I’ve talked a bit about the power of subtext and reading between the lines before, but I think what is fascinating about interpretation is that anyone can read meaning into a book despite what the author’s intentions might have been. That’s the thing about reading between the lines…any interpretation is possible.
What other children’s books could be read from an alternative perspective? Are there any books that you secretly (or maybe not so secretly) think should be banned?