Wednesday 10 December 2014

The Lorax by Dr Seuss (HarperCollins Children's Books)

The Lorax

Written and Illustrated by
Dr Seuss

Published by HarperCollins Children's Books

There are so many brilliant Dr Seuss books, and I loved them as a child (and still love them now). It's been a huge pleasure to rediscover these classics through a new pair of eyes, Charlotte's. With her love of clever rhyme and whacky surrealism, the books are a huge draw for her.

Bizarrely though, I'd never actually read "The Lorax" as a kid and hadn't managed to catch up with it before now either. We spotted it in our wonderful local Library in Abingdon, and couldn't wait to dip in.

I'd already heard that it was a children's book way ahead of its time, a book that told a grim tale of what might happen if we don't look after our planet. The Lorax - "He speaks for the trees" - was an amazingly forward-thinking piece of character creation from Mr Giesel, the book was originally published way way back in 1971 as green issues and the impact of mass fossil fuel consumption and deforestation became more of a public focus.

In the story we meet a little boy who finds himself amidst the desolated remains of a once prosperous and bounteous landscape, stripped bare and in ruins. One building remains, a mysterious tipple-topple tower that hosts a faceless individual known only as "The Once-Ler", a creature with a story to tell. For the small cost of a handful of coins and a nail, the story begins.

The unseen narrator tells of the landscape before, of the amazing Truffula trees and their soft foliage and how The Once-Ler saw the potential to make some easy money. Creating "Thneeds" from the Truffula trees, The Onceler sold each Thneed for three eighty nine, and soon began to ramp up production as more and more consumers demanded his unique product.

Inviting friends and family to join him, The Once-Ler began to process more and more Truffulas into Thneeds. But soon a strange little creature aimed to put a stop to his profiteering.

"The Lorax" arrived, and warned of the impact of taking so many trees. Local fauna were suffering, and as the Once-Ler's factories started to belch out pollution into the air and the local rivers, the wildlife suffered and eventually left.

Despite the Lorax's opposition, the Once-Ler carried on regardless until there was nothing left...leaving the Lorax with no choice but to pick himself up, dash himself into the sky, and leave forever too.

There are many reasons why this book is so ground breaking aside from the hugely important message it imparts. It's core message is quite a 'grown up' concept but it's never too early to involve children in ecological issues, making them aware of the importance of being 'green'. It's a book that delivers that message effectively (in Dr Seuss's trademark tricksy rhymes, which are a real joy and a mouth-mangle to read aloud as ever). It's also a book that could quite easily have ended on a sour note, leaving the barren landscape to serve as a lesson, but turns things around with a tiny seed of hope at the end (quite literally).

Other Seuss books will inevitably be more widely known and more fondly remembered, but The Lorax is amazing and definitely should be in every child's bookcase.

Charlotte's best bit: The poor little Bar-Ba-Loots who are forced to leave their beloved Truffula Trees. Awww!

Daddy's Favourite bit: Way ahead of its time, hugely important and thoroughly enjoyable, possibly one of the most accomplished Dr Seuss books - do not overlook this if you spot it in your library!