How a Dr. Seuss Book Was Just What I Needed

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Jean Kuo Lee

Staff Writer

Jean Kuo Lee is a writer from California with a B.A. in English from UCLA, a former career in interior design, and a current calling to homeschool her children. She writes for parents and kids on several blogs with publications forthcoming. To contact her or to see more of her work, visit Twitter: @JeanKuoLee

The country had been cooking in a vat of bad news for quite some time.

After ten months of the quarantine, I personally had begun to feel overdone. While we all hoped 2021 would magically be different than 2020, for me it felt like the final stretch in a marathon when all your blood glucose has long since disappeared and you know you’re burning fat and probably even muscle.

On the home front, our cooped-up family working and homeschooling for months on end with little chance of normality eventually made me a little loopy and cranky.

So, I began flagging in our normally exuberant family read-aloud routine.

With no captain helming the read-aloud ship, my husband casually stepped in and tossed around some ideas. Without telling me, he settled on a bunch of Dr. Seuss books. But haven’t we kind of grown out of that? I thought quietly when I saw the line-up of nightly reading. He guessed at my silent objections by my lack of enthusiasm. “For something a little lighter,” he said.

Sure, I thought. Read whatever you want. Read whatever floats your boat. I couldn’t muster anything more than that.   

The first night I heard a lot of giggling in the other room where my husband and the kids took turns reading Dr. Seuss books out loud. I was still the reluctant and cheerless grinch. Go on and read, mates. I’m going to sit in my little room and mope about the state of the world.

The next morning my two little darlings came excitedly to tell me there is a Sleep Book by Dr. Seuss that will literally put you to sleep. It’s weird but it will make you drowsy, like you’ve taken Nyquil. As soon as you start reading it, you begin yawning, your eyelids grow heavy, and you feel warm and cuddly, they say. But I was still a hard-hearted and calloused old adult who could not be bothered with any of that giddiness. Even my husband came to tell me how strange the book is, that it could cast a spell on its readers. Could I believe that words and pictures alone had that power? I had to give it a try, he said.

So I did.

I cracked open the tome, and weird to say it, but I felt oddly at home.

I turned to the page and looked at the words, but when I started reading, other naysayers I was heeding.

“This was published in 1962,” they said.

“Can it still speak to people today?

Will it still work, will it be okay?”

Of course it can! You silly baboon!

It is simple, you pimple! Not a trip to the moon!

Let yourself go and enjoy all the magic

Of nonsense and rhythm and sounds if you’ll have it.

Relax and trust, give a little faith to the movement

of spells and concoctions and spirally foment.

Take off your hat, your big glasses and noses;

Throw your “suppose”s away with all your proud poses.

If you’re ready to read, then turn to the page

With creatures fantastic where yawning’s the rage.

“A yawn is quite catching, you see. Like a cough.

It just takes one yawn to start other yawns off.”

My own lids felt heavier now, yes, it’s all true,

How odd that I’d only read up to page two!

Strange alchemy happens when you look at them yawn

Those creatures their mouths are so wide and so long.

I’m catching it now, it cannot be helped;

I’ve taken the potion the sandman has dealt.

I believe it’s all true now, all that the kids say:

The right book can be the best end to your day.

And after you’ve enjoyed a restful night’s sleep,

The voices all quieted, not making a peep,

Try “scrambled eggs Super-Dee-Dooper-dee-Booper,

Special de luxe a-la-Peter T. Hooper.”