Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Grinchmas Carol

Seuss was dead, to begin with – there’s no doubt about that. On September 21, 1991, Theodore Seuss Geisel departed this world, leaving behind many partners in mirth—among them a certain high school librarian upon whose circulation desk we now intrude.

Once upon a time, on Read Across America Eve, this librarian sat busy at her circulation desk—a cold place, colder still for the icy scowl affixed upon her visage at the sight of her director cheerily bursting in upon the scene and declaring “Merry National Read Across America! Literacy save you.”

“Bah!” said Librarian, “Humbug!” Anyone who goes about with ‘Merry National Read Across America’ on her lips should be boiled in her own pudding.

“Read Across America a humbug!” said Librarian’s director. “You don’t mean that, I am sure?”

“I do. It’s quite clear that Seuss’ works have little to offer the sophisticated needs of a secondary library! You keep Literacy in your way, and I’ll keep it in mine.”

But before the unperturbed director could offer a rejoinder, they were joined by a trio of preternatural presences: a faintly-visible mote suspended in a convenient sunbeam, an anthropomorphic feline in a preposterous chapeau, and a fuzzy orange potato with spindly limbs and a Wilford Brimley mustache.

Astonished at the sight, the bickering librarians stood agape a moment before a voice floated out of the dust-speck.

“I know what you’re thinking: Who are we? Well, since we’re not being paid by the word—like some authors we could name—we thought we‘d shortcut the whole arriving-at-the-stoke-of-the-hour schtick and quickly get this over with. We’re the Ghosts of National Read Across America Past, Present, and Future, and we’re going to show you, our curmudgeonly librarian, that the ideas which make Dr Seuss’ works timeless are present throughout your ‘sophisticated’ Young Adult world.”


Image from RRHS Catalog
Similar to Horton’s tale, stories with unseen worlds being discovered by the main character are common in Young Adult literature.  Frequently, the protagonist is singled out by fate and his or her life becomes complicated by the sudden introduction of the extraordinary into the quotidian.  Instead of hearing voices from Who knows what, our hero finds out that vampires are real or that he is a wizard. Some lesser known titles that feature this Seussian motif are Illusionarium by Heather Dixon, Illuminate by Aimee Agresti, and The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer.





Image from RRHS Catalog
Moreover, at any point in time, a zany character can happen by that turns a YA reader’s world topsy-turvy, driving a rollicking adventure that’s unbelievable. In the place of a Cat in a Hat may be a masked pirate king with familiar eyes, as in The Princess Bride by William Goldman; a troubled shape-shifting girl, as in Nimona by Noelle Stevenson; or a literally unbeatable super-heroine, as in Marvel’s Squirrel Girl, demanding attention and temporarily tearing the reader from her everyday world.




Image from RRHS Catalog
Finally, a world seemingly unlike our own can be uncannily similar in poignant ways—enough to make a teenager put down the glowing iThing and heed he who speaks for the trees. The deforested post-Loraxian waste of the Once-ler is a dystopia as sure as a rigid system of Myers-Briggs castes or a state-sanctioned gladiatorial bloodsport. In The Crewel World series by Gennifer Albin, The Selection series by Kierra Cass, and The Dragon Slayer of Trondheim series by E. K. Johnston, this same trope calls into question some rather disturbing aspects of our own world.





Still haunted by the the sight of the epitaph UNLESS, Librarian watched the wee mustachioed Ghost of Read Across America Future stalk off into the distance of the nonfiction stacks before turning to her colleague, unexpectedly giddy with excitement. “There’s still time! I haven’t missed it! I will honor Read Across America in my library, and keep it all year long!”

And, she was better than her word.