Dr Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg
Published 2004 by Harpercollins Children’s Books (first published 1940), 64p
Sooooo big. But so kind and so honest, so diplomatic and so devoted. This is how Horton the Elephant is. He is one of Dr Seuss’ most well-known heroes. Oh, but have you heard about Dr Seuss? Well, he is the best doctor in the world. He makes you laugh so hard that you forget about real life, real age, real drama.
One day Horton meets Mayzie, a lazy bird hatching an egg. She is so bored of just sitting that she decides to take a short break and begs Horton to hatch her egg:
I know you’re not small
But I’m sure you can do it. No trouble at all.
Just sit on it softly. You’re gentle and kind.
Come, be a good fellow. I know you won’t mind.
The persuasive good-for-nothing bird decides to relocate permanently to Palm Beach so the elephant has to sit on the egg, in a tree (oh, how could I have forgotten to mention that?), for 51 weeks. Day or night, storm or snow, Horton keeps the egg warm. He is in even bigger troubles when some greedy hunters sell him to a circus because he is funny. Then, one day, when the circus reaches Palm Beach, Horton meets Mayzie and she wants the egg to be returned claiming it is hers. Now comes one of the funniest and most clever parts of the story – what hatches from the egg is… an elephant-bird, a cute little elephant with wings. Horton and the baby return home and nothing is heard about Mayzie.
I think the story is so well written and so wise that it can easily capture adults’ attention and imagination too. Children’s reactions are so interesting to analyze… just ask them who the egg really belongs to and you will see how they understand facts at different ages. As for adults, the story might be a good basis for thinking about manners, about persecuting the weaker (Horton is so big but so sensitive and never says no), about rewards. We laughed when we saw the bizarre elephant hatching from the egg but he is such a beautiful reward for Horton’s devotement. It also brings to discussion a very complex and difficult subject – adoption. Is it ok that Horton has the baby as long as the egg belongs to the bird?
Horton Hatches the Egg is a funny and deep story, like all the stories written by Dr Seuss. I would definitely include it in all tops with books for children. But there is more to come about Dr Seuss and his fascinating world on my blog so don’t go too far…