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Horton Hears a Who! (1954)

de Dr. Seuss

Sèrie: Horton (2)

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4,7981191,721 (4.21)67
A city of Whos on a speck of dust are threatened with destruction until the smallest Who of all helps convince Horton's friends that Whos really exist.
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That faithful elephant Horton returns in this follow-up to his initial adventure, chronicled in Horton Hatches the Egg, this time finding himself the guardian of an entire microscopic city. Hearing a voice coming from a speck of dust floating by him one day at the watering hole, kindhearted Horton realizes that there are tiny people on the speck - people so tiny they can't be seen. Guiding the speck to rest on a flower, Horton decides he will protect these miniature Whos - as the people are called - and the flower which has become their refuge. Unfortunately for him, the rest of the residents of the Jungle of Nool think he's gone mad, talking to people who aren't there, and, led by an officious kangaroo, decide that something must be done to put a stop to Horton's unconventional behavior...

First published in 1954, fourteen years after Horton Hatches the Egg, and the same year as Scrambled Eggs Super!, Horton Hears a Who! was Dr. Seuss' tenth picture-book, and is a treasured memento of my reading childhood. Much like its companion, this was a bedtime favorite when I was a girl, and I must have listened to and then read it thousands of times. Just as the earlier book had its iconic Hortonian phrase - "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant, an elephant's faithful, 100%" - so too did this second story, with its refrain that "I’ll just have to save him. Because, after all, A person's a person, no matter how small", and I could have recited either, at the drop of a hat. Despite its status as a girlhood favorite, I hadn't picked up the book in many years, until prompted by my recently begun Dr. Seuss retrospective, in which I plan to read all forty-four of his classic picture-books, in chronological publication order. I began this project as an act of personal protest against the suppression of six of the author/artist's titles - And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, McElligot's Pool, If I Ran the Zoo, Scrambled Eggs Super!, On Beyond Zebra! and The Cat's Quizzer - by Dr. Seuss Enterprises. See my review of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, to be found HERE, for a fuller exploration of my thoughts on that matter.

Leaving that aside, I enjoyed this reread, but perhaps not as much as I expected to do, nor as much as I enjoyed my reread of Horton Hatches the Egg. It is still an excellent book, featuring a thought-provoking story, a fun rhyming text, and Dr. Seuss' own trademark illustrations, done this time in black line drawings, with blue and red color accents. All that said, I noticed that the rhyme scheme wasn't quite as accomplished as in some of Seuss' other titles, stumbling in a few places. I also found the story somewhat more off-putting than I recall it being, on an emotional level, with all of the other animals hunting Horton down. The central message, on the other hand, that people deserve to live in peace, no matter how small their society (or their persons!), no matter how much less powerful they are, compared to others, is still as relevant today as it ever was. So too is Horton's declaration that, as someone larger and stronger, it is up to him to protect these smaller, more vulnerable beings, even in the face of opposition from others in his own society. This vision of the just use of power, and of strength, is one many readers will instinctively find themselves agreeing to, I would imagine. We're hard wired, as mammals, to protect our young, and many of us recoil from the idea of the weak being bullied or exploited by the strong. The book is dedicated to Mitsugi Nakamura, a Japanese professor with whom Dr. Seuss became friends, after World War II, and many read it as an oblique apology for its creator's racist anti-Japanese cartoons, during that conflict, or as an exploration of the relationship between the USA and Japan, in the post-war period, when the latter was in desperate need of aid and protection.

It's interesting to note that although Horton Hears a Who! was not on the list of six books selected for suppression by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, it has received similar criticism as those titles did, being described in one academic paper ("The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss's Children's Books”) as reinforcing themes of "White supremacy, Orientalism, and White saviorism." Emboldened by their success with the titles mentioned above, one wonders whether these cultural critics and self-styled reformers of public morality will next come for titles like this? A sobering thought, and a development that Seuss seems to have instinctively anticipated in his story, in which Horton's sincere desire to help draws ridicule and persecution from the big kangaroo, who eventually organizes a mob to oppose him. It seems highly likely that these cultural vandals will continue to attempt to disappear works of literature and art, so it's really no wonder that Seuss titles have been dominating the bestseller lists, of late, as people scramble to buy the books while they can. Truly, a sorry debacle. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Mar 27, 2021 |
Decent humanist parable. Not the best poetry. Gets really dark if you think about it too much. I think the analogy is a little to vague for the demographic. ( )
  pvoberstein | Dec 14, 2020 |
Makes me emotional every time I have read it. "A person is a person no matter how small." Sage advise from a wonderful writer. ( )
  kimberlyrivera1473 | Sep 23, 2020 |
Really good read aloud book. There are many times throughout the book where you are able to use different tones, mixing it up and keeping the readers engaged. The rhymes are fun for read alouds as well!
  tabethadeines | Sep 19, 2020 |
This book teaches such a great lesson about standing up for people. ( )
  DKnight0918 | Sep 12, 2020 |
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For My Great Friend, Mitsugi Nakamura, of Kyoto, Japan.
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On the fifteenth of May, in the Jungle of Nool, in the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool, he was splashing...enjoying the jungle's great joys...when Horton the elephant heard a small noise.
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A person’s a person, no matter how small.
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A city of Whos on a speck of dust are threatened with destruction until the smallest Who of all helps convince Horton's friends that Whos really exist.

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