Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss (HarperCollins Children's Books)

Though my memory is hazy at times, I can remember my childhood being dominated by Dr Seuss books. I can also remember exactly how many copies of this utterly essential book I have owned. 6. The reason we ended up having to buy a new copy for Charlotte recently was mainly because those six have been borrowed, stolen or have ended up read until they literally fell apart (one copy I owned while studying art and design in Brighton was mercilessly stolen from my student digs along with a rather scratty Cat in the Hat T Shirt - at least the thief had taste!)

Charlotte loves Dr Seuss books, so rather than relying on the completely random chance that our local library has some (they are nearly always out on loan, with good reason!) we bought three. You've already seen my hopeless attempts at rhyming in our review of Green Eggs and Ham, so here's what we thought of the book that pretty much made Theodor Seuss Geisel a household name.

Two children are home alone (can you imagine two kids being left on their own with just a goldfish as a babysitter these days? The Daily Mail would have a field day, tsk tsk), bored, staring out of the window at the pouring rain. Bored with toys, bored with playing, bored bored bored.

But with a sharp rap at the door, the jauntiest and most fabulous hat in children's literary history, and the cheekiest grin enters The Cat in the Hat.

The Cat in the Hat knows what to do about boredom. He knows a million and one games you can play. Basically though he's an absolute show-off so all of the games basically involve him playing to his new captive audience, the two children and their grumpy (but quite justifiably so) goldfish.

Cats and balancing household objects usually means chaos, so despite the fish's loud protests The Cat in the Hat proceeds to trash the house, pretty much. It doesn't end there, because The Cat soon ropes in two friends for new games - Thing One and Thing Two!

If anything, they're even worse than the cat - flying kites indoors, skidding around the house and making even more mess and chaos than the Cat did.

Soon enough though, the wise goldfish spies Mum coming down the path. Cat-astrophe! Can the children possibly tidy up the humungous mess in time?

Just in case you're the one person on the planet who hasn't read the rest, I'll not spoil it for you. Knockabout fun in children's books doesn't really get any better than this, and it was obviously so hugely successful when it was originally written way back in 1954 and eventually printed and released in 1957.

Many authors are cited as the agents of radical change in the way children's books were written and perceived but right here is the very book and the very author that I'd say is responsible for and hugely influential on the way children's books are made today. It's timeless, it's fantastic fun, the rhymes flow like hot melted butter and it never ever gets boring. I was so pleased to see Charlotte's reaction to the Dr Seuss books (nothing but abject joy), and hope that she'll always love them as much as I do.

Charlotte's best bit: Thing One and Thing Two (they are SO CUTE, Daddy!)

Daddy's favourite bit: I won't spoil the end but I just cannot get enough of Seuss' crazy machinery in his stories. The one at the end of this book? I want one!