There are lots of good children’s books. But only some are truly great.
The Places You’ll Go – Dr Seuss
This was Dr.Seuss’s final book to be published before he died. That was in 1990 and it has been the perennial graduation gift from hopeful American parents to their offspring ever since.
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
I know that the British audience aren’t as familiar with Dr. Seuss as the Americans and sometimes we can find it all a bit weird. Fear not, however, this rarely strays into odd made-up character territory.
It is an uplifting, and yet realistic, journey through life. It follows a young boy “you” through the indecision and missteps of finding yourself in this world. He demonstrates the wonder of flying high:
“Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.”
and the inevitability of falling low.
“And when you’re in a Slump,
You’re not in for much fun.
Is not easily done.”
He warns against stagnation:
“headed, I fear, toward a most useless place…The Waiting Place”
as well as stressing the importance of resilience
“But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.”
It is wonderfully illustrated in the inimitable style of Dr.Seuss. The Wikipedia entry describes the adventure as being through “several geometric and polychromatic landscapes”, which basically means there are enough wild colours to keep a 3 year old interested.
Our copy was given to my wife on her high school graduation day with the inscription, from her aunt and uncle, “we can’t wait to see all the places you’ll go”. It is the perfect gift for transitional times but also reads just as easily as a gift from grandparents to a newborn.
My 3 year old loves it and I love feeling like I’m imparting every bit of wisdom I have to him in a more articulate way than I could ever muster alone. I read it to him now, I’ll read it to his baby sister soon. And one day, in their mid-teens, as they struggle to work out who they want to be and how to get there, I’ll leave it lying on their bed one night. Because Dad’s cool like that…and subtle…ish.
“So be sure when you step,
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act”
What books have inspired you?
If there are books you have found inspirational or you’d like to contribute to this feature then please comment below or tweet me @maddadskillz