Books Paranormal and Carnivale Picture Book Challenge 2012 Picture Books Reading Themes

Some Love for Dr. Seuss in “If I Ran the Circus”

I grew up on Dr. Seuss. My father is a seafarer – so he would usually bring me a box filled with books each time that he comes home from his sea voyages (sounds so exotic, but really it isn’t). And one time he came home with a box of Dr. Seuss books! Green Eggs and Ham – and all that jazz. I don’t recall having this one in particular though: If I Ran the Circus. So it’s truly a joy to share it for our Bimonthly theme on Circus, Carnivale, and Paranormal Twists.

An Imaginative Little Boy, an Abandoned Lot, and the Circus McGurkus. I love how the entire premise of this book lies in this young imaginative little boy’s mind – who upon seeing this littered-with-junk vacant lot started envisioning the things that he can do with such a huge space – a perfect place indeed for his very own circus. As Morris noted, he feels that old Mr. Sneelock who owns the store out front would not mind the noise and the revelry, nosiree!

“Now a fellow like me,” said young Morris McGurk,
Could get rid of this junk with a half hour’s work.
I could yank up those weeds. And chop down the dead tree.
And haul off those old cars. There are just two or three.
And then the whole place would be ready, you see…
All ready to put up the tents for my circus.
I think I will call it the Circus McGurkus.”

Now what was even more fascinating with this young boy is that he has all these grandiose ideas figured out in his head – in meticulous detail, it’s almost eerie!

The Circus McGurkus! The cream of the cream!
The Circus McGurkus! The Circus Supreme!
The Circus McGurkus! Colossal! Stupendous!
Astounding! Fantastic! Terrific! Tremendous!
I’ll bring in my acrobats, jugglers, and clowns
From a thousand and thirty-three faraway towns
To the place that you’ll see ’em in, ladies and gents,
Right behind Sneelock’s Store, in the Great McGurk tents!

Creatures in Dr. Seuss’ Creative Mind. I have to remind myself continually that not only did Dr. Seuss make up this fantastical verse (creating words as he goes along) – he also created the equally fantastical illustrations. That’s raw talent! I must admit that I tend not to view Dr. Seuss as a human being – he seems more like the Wizard of Oz to me – kind of like a strange, all-powerful being who was able to concoct an entire galaxy of teeming strangenesses where clean boring lines once existed.

The creatures that he came up with in this book are illustrations of his genius: there’s a walrus named Rolf who is able to stand on one whisker on top of five balls! There is also

The Remarkable Foon
who eats sizzling hot pebbles that fall off the moon!
And the reason he likes them red hot, it appears,
Is he greatly enjoys blowing smoke from his ears.

There is also young Morris’ Zoom-a-Zoop Troupe from West Upper Ben-Deezing, his herd of Through-Horns-Jumping-Deer and not to forget his To-an-Fro Marchers who march in five layers – among others.

It was such a treat revisiting Dr. Seuss’ classic tongue-twisters and his fantastical illustrations. If you haven’t read this book yet, you should definitely grab a copy – guaranteed to make you smile.

Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

Links and Resources. 2 Teaching Mommies has a Dr. Seuss Unit that you might want to check out. It  includes more than just this particular book but a smorgasbord of other Seuss books that you might want to use with your students or your own children. In Mrs. Jones’ Room, she has a comprehensive list of Dr. Seuss links that educators would do well to likewise explore. She also included this downloadable pdf link created by cdm.org on If I Ran the Circus Ideas that may be used in the classroom. FavImp.com also has a short but sweet biography of Dr. Seuss that you might want to check out. Greg Pincus from Gottabook also came up with his own poetic Oddaptation of Dr. Seuss’ If I Ran the Circus and If I Ran the Zoo – definitely worth visiting too.

Not to forget, of course, the official website of Dr. Seuss where you can find a universe of worksheets, games and activities, newsletters, book resources, a section devoted to educators, and a whole stack of downloadable classroom activities and printables – you can literally drown in them! I feel so bad that I was not able to discover this site, say five or four years earlier when my daughter was still young – she would have loved exploring this.

If I Ran the Circus by Dr. Seuss. Published by Collins, an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, 1956, 1984. Book borrowed from the community library. Book photos were taken by me.

PictureBook Challenge Update: 33 of 120

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

7 comments on “Some Love for Dr. Seuss in “If I Ran the Circus”

  1. Isn’t it amazing how with all these lengthy rhymes, kids and adults can sit totally captivated by Dr Seuss. What was the word count here? I bet it was more than 500? I like the way he can get away with so many made up words! Hadn’t hear of this treasure!

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    • Hi Joanna, you’re right. I don’t think he cared pretty much about word count – and the made-up words are vintage Seuss indeed. I should really get around to collecting his works again – my old box of treasured Seuss books is now long gone.

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  2. Hi Myra, first, thanks for telling Fats about my cloud post-what fun to hear all she does with clouds! Thanks for all things Seuss in this writing. I love them all but have only a few, & they are ones like The Lorax with a story & a lesson within. He was an amazing man wasn’t he, as I learned from that book I wrote about last Friday about Geisel’s early days writing & creating for college magazines.

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  3. Dr. Seuss has written so many books, it would take a lifetime to get around all of his books. I must admit I have read this delightful book. So simple, but fun! By the way, what is ia sea farer in todays world?

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    • Hi Pat, there are still a lot of sea farers in ‘today’s world.’ 🙂 A good friend of mine is even taking his PhD in Cardiff University in UK on the health risks of seafarers.

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  4. Pingback: List of Circus, Carnivale, Paranormal Themed Books for All Ages «

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