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Horton Hatches the Egg (1940)

de Dr. Seuss

Sèrie: Horton (1)

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3,367522,897 (4.16)58
When a lazy bird hatching an egg wants a vacation, she asks Horton, the elephant, to sit on her egg--which he does through all sorts of hazards until he is rewarded for doing what he said he would.
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I have but to see the cover of this classic picture-book about Horton the elephant for the words "I meant what I said / And I said what I meant... / An elephant's faithful / One hundred per cent!" to float up through my memory. This was a story read to me countless times as a young child, and then read by me countless times, once I gained the ability, and that refrain never fails to elicit a thrill of fellow-feeling and pride. The story of the kindhearted Horton, imposed upon by that lazy Maizie bird, climbing up on to her egg to keep it warm, while she goes on a short "vacation," it features any number of challenges for the titular elephantine hero. Enduring all kinds of weather, suffering the mockery of his friends, standing up to hunters, surviving being carted off to a zoo and made a spectacle of, Horton remains faithful, keeping his word no matter what life throws at him. And when Maizie returns, claiming the egg she had no hand in caring for, something magical happens - the egg hatches an entirely new kind of creature: an elephant bird! This is, the narrative informs us, how it should be...

Originally published in 1940, Horton Hatches the Egg was the first of two picture-books devoted to the doings of the eponymous elephantine hero, followed by Horton Hears a Who, published in 1954. It was the fourth of Dr. Seuss' picture-books to be released, following upon And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937), The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (1938) and The King's Stilts (1939). Although a treasured memento of my childhood, I had not picked this book up in years, until prompted by my recently begun Dr. Seuss retrospective, in which I plan to read and review all forty-four of his classic picture-books, in chronological publication order. I launched 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.

I think that it is here, in Horton Hatches the Egg, that we begin to see the full emergence of Dr. Seuss the wordsmith, as his rhyming text rollicks merrily along, perfectly communicating the story through a perfectly rhythmic text. And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street had some rhyme to it, but it didn't have that seemingly free and easy, effortless feeling that one finds here, in this tale of the faithful Horton, while The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins and The King's Stilts were told entirely in prose. Unlike these three predecessors, this tale of Horton is one that begs to be read aloud, rolling off the tongue in entertaining waves: "There rang out the noisiest ear-splitting squeaks / From the egg that he'd sat on for fifty-one weeks! / A thumping! A bumping! A wild alive scratching! / "My egg!" shouted Horton. "MY EGG! WHY IT'S HATCHING!" The rhyming structure, the use of italics and capitalization - all work together to create a particular rhythm, as one reads. This isn't to say, of course, that the others don't make for a good read-aloud, simply that they don't have that cadence one associates with their celebrated creator.

The proverb that an elephant never forgets is one that predates Seuss by many years, but that genius managed to create something a little different with it, presenting a character who doesn't just remember, whether it be his word or his task, but who is faithful to that word and that task. Someone with a strong sense of honor, and a protective and nurturing attitude to those weaker and more vulnerable than he. In short: the archetype of a great dad! It's interesting to speculate that there might be some message here, not just about keeping one's promises, but about the nature of parenting. Maizie may be the egg's biological parent, but it is Horton who is the adoptive one, doing all of the work of the parent. In real life, adoptive children don't assume the biological qualities of their adoptive parents - nature doesn't really work that way - but Seuss seems to be arguing that they should. Perhaps he is even arguing that they do, if not in body, then in spirit. As I mentioned above, there is a magical quality to this tale, but it is not the magic of fairy-tales or fantasy. It is the magic of justice, something rare enough indeed in the world to be like enchantment, when it finally comes. It should be this way, the narrative tells us, and it would be, the implication seems to be, if the world were a just place...

Just a wonderful, wonderful tale, both well-crafted and well-told, Horton Hatches the Egg is also beautifully and expressively illustrated, in Dr. Seuss' own inimitable cartoon style. One really gets the sense of Horton's emotional ups and downs from the artwork here! I could go on and on, but as my (very rare) five-star rating must make plain: I think that this is a marvelous picture-book, and it is one I would recommend to all readers of that form. I would also recommend it to picture-book readers looking for stories about keeping one's word, and taking care of those in need. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Mar 17, 2021 |
I don't remember a lot about this one, beyond the fact that I definitely read it as a kid.
  Tara_Calaby | Jun 22, 2020 |
I could have done all twenty of these books as Dr. Seuus, but I chose one of my favorites instead. This story tells of Horton, a sweet and caring elephant that offers to sit on an nest so a mama bird could get a rest. That mama bird, however, disappears and leaves Horton all alone to tend to the nest! This becomes a sensation that causes people to flock to come see the amazing nesting elephant and takes him all over the world while he waits for his egg to hatch. Yes, Horton does think of the egg as his now. When the mama bird finally runs into them while on tour, the egg is ready to hatch and surprise them all! It's a custody battle!

This is an adorable story of perseverance, commitment, and sticking to your word. This book can be used in many types of lessons as well. This is a fun read-aloud with a great ending! It almost reads like an Aesop fable, but perhaps that is why I am such a fan. The illustrations are simple, cute, and add to the story in a great way. You really get invested with Horton as he perseveres throughout to maintain loyalty to his duty of sitting on that nest! ( )
  leeport | Feb 20, 2020 |
I have to admit this is my most favorite Dr. Seuss book, which is saying a lot because I love most of them.
When our kids were in grade-school, I would read to their classes and let the kids dress-up and "help" with the action.
They loved it. ( )
  librisissimo | Feb 7, 2020 |
Lazy Mayzie bird leaves her egg with faithful Horton, who protects it even when they (elephant, tree, bird's nest, and egg) are uprooted by men, sent across the ocean, and installed in a circus, where Mayzie finds them and declares the egg hers once it starts to hatch ("The work was all done. Now she wanted it back"). But what emerges from the egg looks more like Horton than Mayzie, complete with elephant ears and trunk along with bird wings. Horton and the elephant-bird are returned to their home.

"I meant what I said
And I said what I meant...
An elephant's faithful
One hundred per cent!" ( )
  JennyArch | May 23, 2019 |
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Sighed Mayzie, a lazy bird hatching an egg: "I'm tired and I'm bored and I've kinks in my leg from sitting, just sitting here day after day."
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When a lazy bird hatching an egg wants a vacation, she asks Horton, the elephant, to sit on her egg--which he does through all sorts of hazards until he is rewarded for doing what he said he would.

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