Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Review - Horton Hears a Who!

Horton Hears a Who!
by Dr. Seuss
Date: 1954
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 72
Format: e-book
Source: library

Horton, the lovable elephant, tries to protect tiny creatures on a speck of dust. An easy reader with delightful verse and pictures.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

When I'm reading some of these older picture books, I'm struck by how long they are. Have children's attention spans really changed that much in the last half century?

I can't recall ever reading this one or having it read to me (although that doesn't mean it didn't happen). What I do remember about this one is hearing about pro-life groups co-opting the message because of the phrase, "A person's a person, no matter how small." Now, I can see why they might've twisted that around to fit their agenda, but if you read the whole book, the message was obviously intended to be about something else: equality.

This was apparently written after World War II after Dr. Seuss went to Japan and talked to schoolchildren about their aspirations. After drawing plenty of anti-Japanese cartoons during the war, this book may have been partly to atone for those racist drawings.

The message is a good one. Horton hears voices coming from a speck of dust, and realizes that there are people--a whole town, in fact--living on it. So he puts it on a clover and carries the flower around with him to protect it. But the other animals, led by a snotty kangaroo, don't believe there's anything on the flower and want to take it away, destroy it, and imprison Horton because he believes there's something on the speck of dust. Even if Horton were simply hearing things, he wasn't hurting anyone, so there was no need to treat him the way the other animals did. (But that's probably the point.)

The rhythm in this one is pretty good, making it a good candidate for read-aloud sessions. I was not impressed by Horton frowning his speech at one point (I thought that bit of annoying writing was a more recent trend; I guess not). But, overall, the text is pretty strong and delivers a great message about standing up for the little guy, even if it's an unpopular stance to take.

Quotable moment:

Then Horton stopped walking.
The speck-voice was talking!
The voice was so faint he could just barely hear it.
"Speak up, please," said Horton. He put his ear near it.
"My friend," came the voice, "you're a very fine friend.
You've helped all us folks on this dust speck no end.
You've saved all our houses, our ceilings and floors.
You've saved all our churches and grocery stores."

Premise: 4/5
Meter: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.71 out of 5

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