Truffulas, Thneeds, and Barbaloots: Realer Than We Realize


A hectic day calls for some Dr. Seuss therapy. Yesterday was hectic and it was also the Doctor’s birthday, so it was just the perfect opportunity to get in some Seusstastic reading.

To celebrate the Doctor’s birthday this year, I went with The Lorax. I only read it for the first time the night before, but I loved it’s message and thought my kids would respond to it.

(In case you don’t know the story: it is narrated by the Once-ler, a former business owner who, enamored of the truffula trees and their silky tufts he discovers, chops them all down, the better to make more thneeds, which everyone needs. The Lorax pleads with him to exercise some discretion, to no avail, and in time, his business grows and the air and water suffer for it.)

Dr. Seuss books are so much fun to read aloud, they just have a great cadence to them. The kids were hooked from the beginning (you know the look when mouths hang open, unable to stand waiting to find out what happens next? That happened.) They were eagerly anticipating, analyzing, and surely enough…lamenting. They were really touched by the loss of the truffula trees, the bar-ba-loots, and everything else. Seeing their reactions and sharing in the communal sadness of the book definitely made me a bit misty.

After reading, I had time to sit with one student (there was another teacher in the room by then). He was clearly upset by something. He had drifted away after we read the book, rummaging mindlessly through a box of markers. I asked him what was up.

“That’s not real,” he said, referring to the book.

“It isn’t?”

“No, that’s not real.” He was pretty defiant.

I told him to take a seat and asked him if he liked to look at stars. He said he did. I told him it was one of my favorite things to do, how fascinated I was by the constellations, and that over the vacation I saw a lot of stars in the sky. Then I told him what my dad has told me many times since I was a kid: “When I was growing up, we could see all the constellations in the sky.”

We agreed, on most nights, we can only see one or two constellations. I told him it’s because of all the pollution in the sky. The sky is so dirty, I told him, that we can’t even see the stars anymore.

I explained that, while The Lorax is fiction, it could really happen on Earth, and maybe it already is. By now, he wasn’t nearly as defiant in his stance against The Lorax.

The Lorax ends with a call to action:

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

So, I asked him if he felt like writing a letter to the President.

“He won’t believe me,” my defiant dude decided.

“You have to convince him,” I said.

And, so, together, we began a letter. Things will continue to be hectic next week, but this is a letter that he has to finish so we can mail it to the White House.

(Click the image for a larger version.)

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4 responses to “Truffulas, Thneeds, and Barbaloots: Realer Than We Realize

  1. Over all the article is clever and effective reporting of brainwashing. It’s not the dirty polution that makes the stars hard to see, it is the glare of cities’ lights that reflect in our atmosphere. Ask any astronomer why it’s so hard to find a place to position a large telescope. It’s the residual light from our city lights. That’s why the Hubbel telescope was created, to get above the glow of Earth’s populated areas.

  2. ^obviously missing that the lesson is not about pollution but about being active in something you care about. Though maybe he would have had the six year old send a letter to “any astronomer”.

  3. Pingback: Carrying Conversations: 10 Lessons Learned from Learners : Teacher Reboot Camp

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