Writing Lessons from Dr. Seuss

A question that all writers get asked–by interviewers, by readers, by family members who don’t really understand the inclination to write–is when did you know you wanted to be a writer.  My answer to when I decided to begin writing seriously vs when I decided writing was a wonderful thing is necessarily different.  As an only child, books were my friends, my entertainment, my solace.  I loved nursery rhymes, and strange German fairy tales where children were always having their ears boxed (I still don’t know what this means, but it sounds unpleasant), and stories of witches and ghosts and mad scientists. My first true love, however, was Dr. Seuss. There were the stories themselves, which never pandered orZax condescended; the drawings, which were strange and delightful; and the rhymes, oh, how I loved the rhymes. I loved his books so much I memorized them, and can still recite good portions of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Too Many Daves, and The Zax, which I even acted out in my bedroom with my mother, our relationship not dissimilar to that of the obstinate North-Going and South-Going creatures.

Unlike many first loves, mine for Dr. Seuss has remained strong, unconditional, and full of admiration and delight after all these years.  (Johnny Cash is the only other artist that has retained my absolute devotion for over four decades.)  So when I heard that a long lost book was discovered, I was curious, excited, and filled with anticipation.  The only thing I knew was the title, What Pet Should I Get, and as a small celebratory gesture, I wrote my own version to tide me over until his arrived.  Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery, and I hope that Theodore would be flattered by my attempt to walk his path, or at least to tiptoe behind him.

I have yet to read his new tale, which I believe is being released today, and will hopefully fill me with glee, but here is my version, with love and respect.

What Pet Should You Get?

So you want a new pet
A bosom delight
Who will  bounce
on your coat tails
but never take flight

questionThere are questions to ask
There are things to review
As you try to finagle
The best pet for you

What do you fancy?
What are your wishes?
It’s not as easy as
bobbing for fishes

Don’t get a dog
If you live by a bog
A dog on a log
is not like a frog
Why, that dog is sure
to fall into the bogfish
And a dog in a bog
is a very sad thing
As sad as a walleye
with a fin in a sling

A frog may be fond
of life in a pond
But a frog will be down
if he lives in a town
His hopping is slow

bluefrogso he’ll miss the bus
And can’t pay the fare
so will make a big fuss
A foot in the door
will not convince Gus
To let your blue frog
onto his bus

A birdie will cheep
when you’re trying to sleep
A cat will not stay
when you want it play
turtleA turtle will hide
when you bring it outside
A goldfish will mock
then retreat to his rock
A ferret will try
to eat all of your pie

A bear will sneer
when he sees you come near
A monkey will snipe
when you’re lighting his pipe
A parrot will chatter
until all your friends scatter
A mouse will chew
through your sock and your shoe

gnu2So perhaps a gnu
is the best pet for you
Do you know all the things
a gnu can do?

A gnu can make your bed
And sort your socks
And knead your bread
And change your locks
And eat your peas
And grill your cheese
And a gnu never needs you
to say please



A gnu can pitch a tent,
And start a fire,
And catch an eel,
And play the lyre


He’ll come to school
and do your math,
He’ll chase the bus
and take your bath

Play catch in the park
until after dark
Blow tunes through his horn
at the crack of morn
momWhen your mother comes in
and yells “what’s all this din?”
He’ll crawl under your bed
and always play dead
Then he’ll giggle with you
till you both turn blue

There’s no topping a gnu
He’s the best pet for you!

Brought to you by the Gnu Breeders of East Gnu