Diane Prather

Diane Prather

Diane Prather: A salute to Dr. Seuss and his books

This week's book for children isn't a new release. In fact, its copyright date is 1965, but it and other books by the author are timeless, enjoyed by readers as much today as when they were published.

One of the books has been made into a newly released movie. "Horton Hears a Who" promises to be fun for everyone.

This week's column is a salute to Dr. Seuss, who is perhaps best known for "The Cat in the Hat," written by using 220 rhymed words.

Some of Seuss' books were written for the beginning reader. The amusing illustrations, rhyme and repetition of words appeal to the younger reader. So do words such as "zizzer, zazzer, zuzz" and "fiffer, feffer, feff."

"Fox in Socks," this column's featured book, is an example of one of Seuss' beginner books.

There's a warning on the front inside cover of the book: "Take it slowly. This book is dangerous." That's because the book is a tongue twister and is apt to make the reader's tongue numb.

The main characters in the book are Fox and Knox. Both are very polite, referring to one another as "Mr." and "Sir."

Fox is all red and wears blue socks and blue gloves. Knox is some sort of yellow animal with long, floppy ears. He's dressed in a long, yellow outfit with a pink collar. Fox invites Knox to play some tricks, which involves tongue-twisting words.

An orange box is at the center of activities for the first five pages (really for most of the book). First, Knox is in the box. Then Fox in socks is in the box and Knox stands on Fox's head.

Next Knox wears blue socks, too, and the box is upside down over his head. Fox in socks is doing a handstand on top of the box.

"Socks on Knox and Knox in a box. Fox in socks on a box on Knox."

But, the serious tongue twisting is to come. It begins when Fox introduces Knox to chicks with bricks, blocks and clocks. Fox says he'll make a quick trick brick stack, and he does, too, and sits on top. He puts his feet on a quick trick block stack.

Now, Fox wants Knox to make a quick trick chick stack and a quick trick clock stack. Knox ends up in the orange box on top of these stacks, and he looks pretty bewildered.

Add blue socks on chicks and a bunch of ticks and tocks and poor Knox is overwhelmed. He appeals to Fox. He doesn't like the tricks. His tongue isn't "quick or slick." Knox just plain can't do it.

Mr. Fox apologizes. He says he'll start another game, an easy one. It starts with two socks, new socks. They're Sue's pink socks. But Fox can't help himself. The easy trick becomes complicated when Sue begins to sew things, including Mr. Crow's clothes. Poor Knox. His ears droop. He hates this game, too.

Each time Fox starts a new game, it gets more tongue twisting. Knox doesn't like the game about "blue goo" or "three cheese trees and three free fleas" or "tweetle beetle puddle paddle battle."

Fox is clearly out of control, and Knox just can't "blab such blibber blabber."

So Knox turns the tables on Fox in socks.

This book, like all of those by Dr. Seuss, is just plain fun.

"Fox in Socks" was published by Beginner Books, a division of Random House (1965).

Copyright Diane Prather, 2008. All rights reserved.

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