Horton Hears a Who!

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Horton Hears A Who by Dr. Seuss is a classical picture book that many children have read and will continue to read. It follows the typical Dr. Seussian format, with his particular cartoons, limited color palate, and vivid word choice and rhyme scheme. Despite being published many years ago, the book still expresses a topical message: “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”

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The story begins for Horton like any other day in the Jungle of Nool, when out of nowhere he hears a small noise and sees a tiny speck float by. He soon realizes there may be people living on that speck and puts it on a clover for safe keeping.

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Soon, however, a mean kangaroo comes by and she doesn’t believe there is anyone living on the speck. She makes fun of Horton for caring about seemingly nothing, before spreading the news to other animals in the jungle who make fun of Horton, too.

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Eventually the animals move from merely teasing to real action, and the Wickersham brothers steal the clover and give it Vlad Vladikoff the eagle to get rid of. At this point Horton has learned that there are actual people living on the clover – the Whos down in Whoville – and so even when the clover with the speck gets dropped in a field of millions of clovers, he searches for hours for it.

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Even after he finally finds the clover, the animals of the jungle still don’t believe that the Whos exist, so they tie Horton up and plan to destroy the clover. Horton tells all the Whos to make as much noise as possible in the hopes they will be heard.

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Nothing seems to work until finally one little boy yells out “yopp!” and breaks through. The animals realize they were wrong all along, and everyone agrees to help protect the Whos.

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While on the surface this book may seem like a simple, albeit very entertaining, story, in reality, it imparts many important lessons about belief, perseverance, and loyalty. Horton promises the Whos he will protect them because “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” The other animals discredit the speck on the clover and scoff because they don’t believe there are real people living there. They devote their energy to further discrediting Horton because he attempts to protect them. Eventually, after incredible effort and commitment by Horton and the Whos, the animals finally see the error of their ways and there is a happy ending.

I always appreciated the book for these reasons, but its relevance is important still today. Many people in our society today struggle to make their voices heard and be considered real people with equal rights within their community and country. Only with the help of committed people working together will we be able to have a fully inclusive society like the one present at the end of the story. Horton Hears a Who in many ways mirrors the process our society must go through in order to have true acceptance, and this message is important for young children to hear at an early age, even if the parallels are not quite as clear for them then. Because compassion and faith will always be “trendy,” no matter the context.

Alex Wolfe

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