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Viki Mather gets all 'Suess-ian' on a midwinter morning

Warm January sees outdoorsy longtime columnist passing the time with some childhood favourites
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I love winter when it does what winter is supposed to do. 

Cold, but not too cold. Snowy, but not all the time. It is easier to go places in winter, once the lakes are well frozen and the forest blanketed with snow. February promises to be a gorgeous month. Unlike most of January. January was too warm, the lakes too slushy. I had lots of time for reading, though.

If you have been following this column for that past 30-plus years, you know I’ve never written about politics. And I won’t today. Although some might interpret it differently.

My warm-winter reading list reached back to my childhood, some of the first books I read in the late 1950s. Dr. Seuss! "The Cat in the Hat" was my favourite book. 

A common adage is that those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Dr. Seuss wrote about many of the issues of the day, in books that were widely read by just about every child in North America. His messages from 50 years ago are still relevant today.

Remember The Sneetches? Half of these mythical yellow creatures had stars on their bellies, and half did not. Otherwise, they were identical. Of course, those with stars felt superior to those without.

Enter the Entrepreneur! He made a machine that would put a star onto those without … for a price. The non-starred gladly paid. The originally starred were furious, as they could no longer tell who was superior. The Entrepreneur came up with another machine to remove stars. The originally starred gladly paid to have their stars removed. Then they were smug again. 

This of course led the ones who had newly installed stars to pay to have them removed. The Entrepreneur kept himself busy attaching and detaching stars as fast as the Sneetches could get through the machines. It didn’t take long for everyone to get mixed up. The Entrepreneur got all the money, and left. 

It is a funny story, and well-loved by children. Easy to read, lovely rhymes, silly drawings. Yet, the underlying messages are just as relevant today as they were all those years ago. 

All the beautiful snow we have now brings to mind The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. Remember that one? An oily spot gets out of control. It spreads, it covers everything. If only we had access to the magic to make it all clean again.

The LoraxThe Butter Battle Book, and of course How the Grinch Stole Christmas! — all these great stories have political and social messages. We would do well to read them again, not just to our children, but to ourselves and to those we elect to rule us. 

Bartholomew and the Oobleck may be lesser known, but well worth the 10 minutes it takes to read.

Enjoy.

Viki Mather has been commenting for Northern Life on the natural world and life in Greater Sudbury since the spring of 1984. Got a question or idea for Viki? Send an email to editor@sudbury.com.



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