Wednesday, March 2, 2011

If Only I Could Run the Zoo

Today's headline should give a clue to the topic today. It would almost be a sin not to mention Dr. Seuss on his birthday. After all, this author lit the fire for the love of reading in so many children's hearts. His books are timeless and are still tucked on the bookshelves for little boys and girls to enjoy today. Dr. Seuss' world is imaginative, playful and whimsical just like a child's heart. Perhaps that is why he has become so endearing to many. As a birthday toot to the beloved author, today will be dedicated to Seuss' works that may not have been as popular as Cat in the Hat, but are just as good if not better.

As luck would have it, a couple of weeks ago I ran across The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Having never heard of the book, curiosity got the better of me. The story is quite simple, King Derwin of Kingdom of Didd passes by Bartholomew Cubbins, who wore a red hat with a feather. Everyone knows that when the King passes by, hats must be removed. So why didn't Bartholomew remove his hat? He did! Honestly he did but unfortunately his head seems to grow hats! Whenever he takes one off, another one takes its place. All in all there were 500 hats. Poor Bartholomew, what will he do? Lucky for him the 500th hat was very much to the King's liking. King Derwin bought all the hats from Bartholomew for 500 gold coins. Seuss leaves his reader with a happy ending and no explanation for why Bartholomew's head grew 500 hats. His simple explanation, " "happened to happen." Good enough for me. This is a lost treasure that must be shared with little story time friends. It would be easy enough to make red caps with feathers.

Seuss could always bring to light many interesting questions, such as Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? Great question for little ones who sometimes don't appreciate that life is wonderful in Suess' world as well as in their own world. In true and unique Seuss fashion, an old wide man perched on a cactus (and why not a cactus, after all they look so comfortable) offers readers a lesson on the value of life, liberty, and opportunity. Throughout the book, the readers are shown a bad situations from a worse angle and asked to consider the difference. After the book has been closed, the wise man's question stays with the readers. Yes, indeed he has told us how lucky we are and it is very difficult to argue with his logic.

As a children's librarian, interesting angles to get children and parents to read together are constantly popping up in my mind. One of the more successful ideas came to me when looking for a unique title for family book discussion night. If I Ran the Zoo was a perfect fit because it contained all the ingredients of a good story time book: imagination, humor and broad appeal. During this book discussion, children were encouraged to describe their "zoo". As you can imagine, there were no two zoos alike. As a matter of fact, one child stated he would put the visitors in the cage and let the animals throw peanuts to the humans! (I'm not sure I would go to that zoo!) By the end of the book discussion, each parent and child created a unique creature to add to the library's one of a kind zoo. Using a styrofoam tray, all participants glued their animals on the tray, threaded yarn through the top and bottom, creating the bars of the cage. It was the most unique zoo I had ever seen and it was perfect. Which made me wish again, just as I did when I was younger, to run a zoo. However, I think I might settle for "If I Ran The Library", now that would be fun and perhaps even a best seller!

in honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday, pick up one of his books and read to your child. It could be the start of a wonderful habit!
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