When I went to pick up Coturnix Junior from school today (he is in 7th grade), we bumped into his English teacher who informed me that he did not turn in his book review. He started coming up with excuses, that he lost the book, or it was stolen, etc. She said something like "Well, you better read something really fast, so you can turn in the review tomorrow. And it has to be something at middle-school level, not Dr.Seuss".
I doubt Dr.Seuss ever crossed hs mind up till that moment, but he was quick to see an opening when it presented itself, so he shot back "Sure Dr.Seuss is at middle-school level!" She laughed and said "OK, instead of a book review, write an essay that will persuade me that Dr.Seuss is on middle-school level"
Coturnix Jr. thought she was joking and was quite distraught about his predicament once we got home. He would not believe me that she was not kidding and that this was really his assignment. Fortunately, later this afternoon, we went back to his school for Science Night and bumped into the English teacher again. I asked and she confirmed that she was not kidding and that this indeed was his assignment.
That gave him fire. As soon as we got home, he pulled out all of the Dr.Seuss books (and we have most of them), checked them out, re-viewed a couple of tapes to make it faster (he's read all the books many times before so I gave him a pass on that shortcut), then got on a computer and wrote the essay in half an hour.
When I read what he printed out I was floored. After dismissing some of the Dr.Seuss books as pure fun with words and rhymes, he started arguing that some of the books are much more serious. While little kids may still enjoy the wordplay, it takes some age and knowledge to understand the real message of those books.
Then he proceeded to look at four such books. The short version of it (in my words - he squirreled away his work before I could copy and paste here):
Green Eggs And Ham, he wrote, is about the difficulty in facing the unknown and doing stuff one is not used to doing.
Sneetches is a metaphor for racism, in which one group asserts superiority over another just because they look different on the surface.
Lorax is about greed that leads not just to the irreversible destruction of the environment, but also to the bankrupcy of the company. Moreover, thneed is really oil - something that we will run out of if we are not greedy.
Finally, the stand-off between the Northgoing and Southgoing Zax is a parable of the Cold War, with two superpowers stubborny refusing to yield, while the world around them moves on.
Where on Earth did he get all those ideas? Ah, well....he picked up stuff eavesdropping on his parents, I guess.... I bet he'll get an A for this.