Suess. Doctor Suess.

When you spend your summer with people who still laugh uncontrollably at the word “fart” and consider booger a legitimate food, you have to find ways to stimulate your mind while keeping them from killing each other with spitballs.┬áDr. Suess was the answer to our troubles. I had the audacity to propose that we read all of his books. The nannying gig is over but my mission is not – so look out, unsuspecting children who need to be read to! You could be next…

I’d always been dimly aware that Dr. Suess was talented, but never realized just how brilliant he was. In every book, he leads us into his colorful, whimsical world and teaches us something new about life, or shows us something we knew in bright, new colors. He puts things upside down and convinces us that we are the ones who are not right side up. He sprinkles magic over mundane moments, splashing colors and music all over the place. The books I’ve read recently and what I see in them:

I discovered this one this summer. It’s about appreciating where you are and what you have. Although the message is ancient, it comes to life in a funny, colorful way. The kids loved it (and if they’d had their way, we’d be reading it every night – but I was on a mission).

This one is a similar idea. Just stop complaining and look at what you’ve got.

If you’ve never read this book, you’ve probably never learned to read, and it is unlikely that you are reading my blog. So assuming you’ve all read (or at least watched!) this one, I will admit that I think it is overrated, but still a good story with a memorable main character.

I do, however, recommend the Jewish sequel written by my dad and myself: The Cat in the Hat Kept Shabbat. Not kidding.

The pinnacle of Suess-ness. The ultimate birthday/graduation/new job/anything gift. You can read this one on the bus and not get looked at like the guy reading Spot Goes to School.

The pictures in this one are less appealing than those in his later work, but the story is complex and funny with an unexpected (and somewhat sinister) ending.

This is the one for those of us who are afraid of trying new things. Um…everyone? After reading this too many times, one of the kids decided he wanted to eat green eggs and ham for breakfast. For those of you in a similar situation, I will impart some of my wisdom: 1) Cabbage makes eggs go green. 2) Five year olds are likely to believe that salami is ham.

This is a collection of stories, the best of which is King Looie Katz. It paints a ridiculous picture of the working world and hierarchical society with lots of cats holding up each other’s tails…

Another one that makes the world as we know it look like a joke. There’s no way this was written for kids.

Different from his others – this one hardly rhymes and is quite long. It’s about the power of words and how to say sorry.

I can recite most of this by heart. Sometimes I find myself saying, involuntarily, “So-o… if you want to go bump bump, just jump on the hump of the wump of Gump”. One could argue that this book teaches about diversity, but mostly it’s a stage for Dr. Suess’ brain to dance on. His imagination is doing cartwheels.

A little boy with an imagination like Suess’.

Another place for Dr. Suess’ imagination to go wild.

Once again, he shows us his crazy universe and makes us feel silly for not knowing it existed.

And so my blog-reader, now I ask you,

to please leave your comments and tell me your view!

Do you agree that the Doctor’s fantastic?

Or have I once again been a little bit drastic?

How do you think I should continue my quest?

And which book is his worst? Which one is the best?


Minutes in Manhattan

In Africa I met a Lebanese woman who had spent her life traveling. “You become everywhere you have been,” she told me. Walking around the City, I am a little bit African.

I step out of the underworld of the subway onto 34th and 6th. Some guys with neon shirts yell, “Empire State! Empire State! Book ya tickets, book ’em now!” and a blonde family stands with a guidebook and blank faces.

I walk among tourists

(they travel in packs, wear “I heart New York” shirts, don’t pronounce the word “coffee” like they’re swallowing a grapefruit, walk at a normal pace and look up at buildings)

and I walk among Real New Yorkers

(they carry at least two bags, talk on their cellphones/iphones/blackberries/cameras/watches, drink coffee, and walk quickly enough that you’d never stop them, but slowly enough that they’d never miss a good sale).

I walk past hot-dog stands that conjure a whiff that blends in with sewers and parking garages, out of which crazy drivers come out to run over even crazier pedestrians.

I pass a homeless woman. She is blond and wearing a flowery skirt and a thick layer of mascara. I think about the boys I saw in Africa with tattered tops and shower shoes.

I wander into a cafe. I gape at the counter behind the glass, at glazed cinnamon raisin buns and at a coffee crumble cake. Suits and ties and high heels form an orderly, impatient line. Lipstick mouths talk fast, order faster, eat faster and run back out to work.

I walk along towers soaring up to the sky – sleek, glass, reflective.

And along old buildings, ornate. Behind their decaying walls I can almost hear the polite aristocratic chatter of men in top hats and women in gowns. I walk up broad, sun-stained stairs onto a pillared facade – The New York Public Library.

I stroll through an exhibit depicting the lunch scene in New York in the past century. You should check it out if you’re around. Did you know Jello was introduced to the world as a diet food? And that people used to get hot, gourmet meals by pushing a quarter into a machine called an Automat?

New York is not Africa. It’s a madness that makes perfect sense, itineraries crashing, personalities clashing, like the jazz musician’s wail jamming into the delicate notes from the philharmonic, stilettos stepping on flip flops, double-cappuccino-frappe-latte-with-diet-organic-local-soy-milk clinking with a beer glass.

People wear deodorant.

They say excuse me.

The sidewalks are clean.

There are no 2 meter potholes in the sidewalk.

There are sidewalks.

No one points at me and yells, “mzungu.”

No one points at me at all.

Everyone has some place to go, or reason to pretend that they do. No one just sits (unless it’s in a Starbucks), no one just thinks (unless it’s through an app on the iPhone) no one just is. Or maybe they are. They do seem alive.