Is “the thinks you can think” too easy or inspiring?

This might turn out to be one of those posts where you wonder where I’m going but hopefully I have a point at the end. Ho Hum. – So as part of my 16 month old son’s bedtime, either my wife or I read him a few books. Small things, often touch and feel, or ones which involve rhymes or interaction. We figured even doing this now (we started three or four months back) would be a good habit to get him into. With his age, and a not limitless supply of books to hand, there is a bit of repetition, and therefore a warm welcome to anything new, at least by us, if not always by him. A recent addition is “Oh the thinks you can think” by Dr Seuss.

Most Dr Seuss books are for older children, but this one is short and therefore doesn’t require too much attention for a toddler. But, and this shows what an awful cynic I can be, I couldn’t help thinking, I could have written this one. This is book forty (or close), there is an established pattern to the Seuss work, I wondered, did he say, I do not have to try as much? C’mon man, it’s like:

“Hmm, you can think about schlopp, um, what rhymes with schlopp, oh cherry on top. It’s a kids book, they won’t care, I’ll just have it buttered up with some cool looking drawings”.

I am far too much of a cynic aren’t I? Sure we know Dr Seuss is very talented at writing children’s books. You can look up his preferred style with poetry on his wiki page, we all know he is talented and a classic in the field. Given a prompt, I could come up with something similar. Hmm…

And therein lies the genius of Dr Seuss. Not only was he good with structure and making rhymes a child could easily follow, but he was good with the prompt, by which I really mean, the idea. A basic idea mostly, but with a little spin. Individually many of us might be able to work up parts of it, but the whole, the idea, to more ideas, to words, structure and diagrams, is his creative whole. He’s pretty cool.

Tongue firmly in cheek, still the nagging I could do that. Sort of. So I realised that what I’m getting at, is Dr Seuss can also be very inspiring. He shows that with some thought and ideas, and and understanding of basic structure (for what you are trying to create) that it is possible. He shows that if you don’t play it too safe and dangle out there a little further, you may surprise yourself. It still takes effort, you still need to edit and tweak, and rewrite, but if you have an idea think where you can go with it. Most writing really, is just having an idea, and then finding the way to flesh it out.ย Go read a Dr Seuss book again (even if it is from the shelf in a store), you might be surprised what he can still show you.

Lexicon word of the day: gombeen.


14 comments on “Is “the thinks you can think” too easy or inspiring?

  1. imaginatemum says:

    I thought most Dr Seuss books were written to help learning to read? So maybe all the rhymes are to support phonics teaching?

    • Elliot says:

      I think so. The post is a bit tongue in cheek and part of the illusion of, this seems easy, or I could do that, is because they are so well done in the first place.

  2. L.S. Engler says:

    I’ve actually thought these thinks before myself, and what I realized is that, while the prose seems simple and on the fly, Dr. Suess has put his words together with a certain charm and whimsy that goes well beyond the letters. Therein, I believe, lies the key. There’s a certain resonance and charisma in the way he put everything together that is really hard to beat. I’ve never really tried, but I think I’m much too Serious to ever get a grip on it.

    I kind of want to dig up “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” now. That one has always been my favorite Suess.

    • Elliot says:

      I think we may have that book as well. We bought loads of books for our son but other people also bought us books too, often ones he won’t get to for a little while yet. There are a number of Dr Seuss books. In fact I can remember reading some myself when learning to read as they were popular in the uk.

      The apparent simplicity comes from good technique.

  3. crubin says:

    I recently read somewhere that Dr. Seuss was challenged by his publisher to write a book in less than 50 words–he didn’t think Seuss could do it. Thus was the spark behind “Green Eggs and Ham”.

    And allow me a moment to let my pediatric background come forward. Good for you for reading to your child! Studies have shown reading to a child enhances their verbal development, improves cognition, and increases vocabulary. And the younger you start the better. There. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Elliot says:

      Thanks, yes we wanted to encourage reading (or at least familiarity with books) from as early as possible. We have picture books lying around all over the place and he really likes them. He particularly likes books with lots of objects so he can point and we tell him what they are. He surprised us in the last week or two with how many he knew when we would say “Where’s the table?”, Where’s the door?” and so on. You could tell he was searching for them, and he can identify them in several different books, which is encouraging for us.

  4. Remembering how delighted I was as a small boy reading “Green Eggs and Ham”, and now smiling from the memory. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Elliot says:

      I’m looking forward to reading them to my son (more of the Seuss books) although I think my favourites will be when he is older and gets to the Roald Dahl books. Hmm, I smell a post on Roald Dahl coming up somewhen soon….

  5. rtd14 says:

    Reading the Doctor Suess books to my son sometimes exhaust me because I become tongue tied. You’re right.

    • Elliot says:

      I think that I could just mention Dr Seuss and pretty much everyone has experience of at least one book, shows how well they work.

      I also get a bit tongue tied reading them out loud, you cannot do it too quick!

  6. Ann Marquez says:

    Over 30 years ago, I taught both kids their ABCs with Seuss when each were around your son’s age. Words of caution and speaking of brains … my memory isn’t “all that” these days, but phrases like “Ichabod is itchy and so am I” has been permanently branded on my mind. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Great post and Interesting thoughts. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Elliot says:

      I expect as time goes on I will be getting them etched as well. Hopefully it will give him a sense of enjoying books, which he certainly does now.

      Thanks for dropping by and saying hello Ann.

      • Ann Marquez says:

        Thank you and it definitely will give your son a great foundation. Just spending time with him is soooo important (but that goes without saying.) What an awesome dad! You are doing good! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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