The Cat in the Hat Comes Back – Dr. Seuss

More in the Series – The Cat in the Hat
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 2 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points.
Discretionary ideological points:  0 points.

I had never read this one before now, and, honestly, I was a bit disappointed. I have to assume this is why Seuss didn’t generally do sequels that much?

To get the metrics out of the way, much like its predecessor, this book fails on Bechdel (though Sally does get a few more lines in this one) and on diversity. But it also is just kind of a bit wishywashy in comparison to the original.

None of my defenses of the original Cat in the Hat really stand up with this one. Basically the Cat shows up, makes a mess, and spends the whole book trying to clean up the mess by essentially moving it around until it is all over the snow. The mini cats (A-Z) that apparently live in his Hat are revealed and try to help, until eventually all the snow is pink and the very last teeniest tiniest Cat Z takes off his hat and there is a VOOM! and everything is clean and the path is shovelled and all is well.

I feel like this book fails to have the tricksterish charm of the original and is really just an excuse to teach the alphabet. Much of the rhyme is built around the alphabet, the story definitely doesn’t feel as satisfying as the original, and there isn’t even any sign of the Fish who acted so beautifully as a foil to the Cat in the first book.

I mean, we did enjoy reading it because even when he’s not great, Dr. Seuss is better than most. The rhyme is still fun to read and races along at a good pace, but as a sequel I found it not very satisfying. I have given it the good story points from both of us because it was fine enough to read, but for the most part I’d be inclined to say stick with the original.

 

 

 

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Green Eggs and Ham – Dr. Seuss

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel:  0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

I unashamedly adore this book. It’s another one that fails dismally while being totally wonderful. No female characters, no diversity to speak of.

But dude, it’s GREEN EGGS AND HAM.

I’ll admit that this is such a staple in my household that C and I are prone to break out into it at random times. When it’s raining: “I do not like this rain. I do not like it Sam-I-Am.” When he doesn’t want to eat something: “Would you like it with a goat?” It’s a bit of a thing. So of course it gets the good story points from both of us.

And I’m giving it an ideology point for the “don’t knock it till you try it” message, which, thank all the gods, my kidlet seems to have internalised. He’s a bit of a fussy eater, so anything that gets him to try new things is good in my book. That’s how we got to “carrots are actually kind of okay”.

Plus there’s the awesome rhyming, and the fact that it is both catchy and funny. It makes C laugh with delight still, after multiple readings, and I can cite it when he won’t try something which moves the conversation away from being a battle into something we’re in on together, which is always good.

So despite the low score, I still heartily recommend the book. But of course, you’ve all read it already haven’t you? 😉

The Cat in the Hat – Dr. Seuss

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel:  0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

I am so excited to have finally gotten round to a Seuss. A very classic Seuss at that! And one which, alas, fails dismally. This is another good example of a really great book that has a lot going for it that still manages to fail the criteria we’ve set up, which proves my claim that this is not a perfect system, and is really more about being aware of trends than about the value of particular books. Any system is going to be flawed, and this one is no exception. Still, onwards!

I debated the Bechdel pass with myself for a while, but I think technically I can’t give it. There are two named characters (though one is, admittedly, “Mother”), and Mother does direct dialogue at her kids, one of whom is Sally, but Sally never responds, and I think, in general, the interaction fails the spirit of the Bechdel. It was too borderline, so I couldn’t give it the point.

I also honestly hunted for some good ideology points I could give it, but actually, by the standards of the system I’ve set up here, this book is not great. There are some clear consent violations (the Cat continues to tease and balance the Fish after the Fish has explicitly asked him to stop), which I find hard to forgive given how much effort I put into teaching my kid that when someone says stop you should stop.

The Cat does clean up his mess in the end, but there is a lot of boundary crossing in the story, to the point that I think “clean up your mess” as a message is a bit weak-sauce for this tale.

I am proud that when we got to the end of the book, and reached the question. “What would you do if your mother asked you?”, my son replied unequivocally that he would tell me. YAY! But despite the fact that there is a lot going on here that’s ideologically troubling, it is still, obviously, great fun to read, and a classic of kiddielit for a reason!

In truth, I could probably write a very long convoluted essay defending The Cat in the Hat, but I’m going to try and keep it simple for our purposes here. You see, the thing is that Seuss does something very important which I think is vital in children’s literature, and that is dealing with transgression.

For those of you who don’t know, I wrote my masters thesis on trickster children’s texts, so this is something of a pet topic for me, and I think this book falls neatly into this category – which is to say the Cat is a trickster. The book is dealing with this idea of transgressing – of breaking adult rules – and I think that this is something that needs to be present in children’s books in much the way every pantheon needs a trickster and every court needs a jester – because we humans need a safety valve.

So yeah, ideologically it’s a bit iffy, but that’s sort of the point. It’s skating the boundaries of acceptability and doing it well, which is no easy feat. It’s a trickster text, poking at the edges of adult sensibilities and letting kids in on the chaotic tricksterism of the Cat’s world.

Do you buy it? I don’t know if I’ve sold it well enough here. 😉 But let me know what you think. Are you a fan of the good Dr? Do you love the Cat? Or do you find yourself on the side of the Fish?