Traditional Thursdays: Horton Hatches the Egg

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One of my favorite authors as a child, and still, one of my favorite Children’s books authors is Dr. Seuss. So, I felt it was fitting to pick a book written by Dr. Seuss for today’s Traditional Thursday, but I decided to discuss a book that was not part of my family’s bookshelf growing up. A book with a reoccurring character in Seuss’s work, Horton the elephant, Horton Hatches the Egg, follows the lovable and caring elephant Horton though his experience of sitting on an egg he promised to keep warm. The story is heartwarming, as Horton teaches readers the importance of keeping one’s words, persistence, hard work, and dedication.

Dr. Seuss’s sing-songy rhymes keep the rhythm of the book flowing and makes it an enjoyable read. Additionally, Seuss’s use of repetition helps to emphasize key parts of the story as well as contribute to the pattern of reading. He uses Horton’s catch phrase “I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent” and even changes the phrase slightly throughout the story to emphasize the plot, such as “with Horton unhappy, one hundred percent,” and “but oh, I am seasick, one hundred per cent!” These changes help the story continue to move along while also giving emphasis to Horton’s emotions throughout the story.

Written in 1940, Horton Hatches the Egg begins with a Mayzie bird who is exhausted and wants a break from sitting on her egg in her nest. She longs for a vacation, and calls on Horton walking by to take care of her egg while she takes a well-deserved break. Horton promises to be faithful to the Mayzie bird’s egg, and begins his unknowingly to him, nearly year-long babysitting job, as Mayzie decides that vacation is just too good to return. Dr. Seuss uses humor to show the loving care of Horton, as Horton figures out how to safely sit on the egg.

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Horton shows resilience as he cares for the egg through storms, a freezing winter, teasing from his peers, and even standing up to hunters to protect the egg. These hunters find amusement from Horton the elephant perched on a tree, and bring Horton, tree, egg and all, across the ocean and sell Horton, the elephant perched on a tree, to a circus.

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After fifty one weeks of remaining faithful to the egg, Mayzie bird flies by the circus and recognizes Horton. All of the sudden, the egg begins to hatch, and despite leaving the egg for nearly a year, Mayzie claims it as her own, refusing to acknowledge the dedication Horton has put into caring for her offspring.

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However, to both Horton and Mayzie’s surprise, out of the egg popped out an elephant-bird!

Overall, Seuss uses his illustrations to emphasize the emotion on the pages, with white dominating on the page when Horton is taken away to be sold to the circus, emphasizing his fear and loneliness, and orange being the prominent color when Horton is embarrassed or overwhelmed at the circus. The illustrations are all with the colors black, white, turquoise, and orange. The sketches also show motion really well through use of lines and position of the characters.

One of the most interesting aspects of this book was its rich vocabulary. Teachers and parents alike can utilize the complex words that Dr. Seuss incorporates including immense, fluttered, tenderly, grumbled, lurch, scarcely, and swooped.

Through this fun-loving story, children will easily be enamored with the heroism with which Horton cares for the egg. Seuss’s writing displays the importance of faithfulness to one’s word, dedication, and hard work for those who put in the effort. Furthermore, Dr. Seuss slyly makes a jab at individuals who try to swoop in at the last moment and claim hard work and projects as their own when they did not do much at all. These lessons are important for children of all ages. Particularly, this book could make a fascinating read if it was shared with a group of middle schoolers or high schoolers before they started on a group project, showing that individual’s hard work is visible, and it is easy to see when one tries to claim work as their own that was not really theirs.

Overall, this is just one of Dr. Seuss’s magnificent contributions to the world of children’s literature, and children and adults alike can find enjoyment through reading this story.

Annie Leck

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