Sunday, September 26, 2021

Book Review: McElligot's Pool by Dr. Seuss

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Imagination takes on the world under the sea
Cons: Banned, not one of Dr. Seuss’s best books
The Bottom Line:
Imagining fish
Creativity displayed
Rhymes could be better

You Never Know What You’ll Find in McElligot’s Pool

Growing up, we had a couple Dr. Seuss books that were free as part of a promotion.  They were paperback, but the covers were cheap.  Still, I remember loving those books.  One of them was McElligot’s Pool.

The book opens with Marco, the protagonist from To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, fishing in a pond on the McElligot’s farm.  He’s warned that there’s nothing in the pond but junk that people have thrown away.  Marco, however, takes a more fanciful outlook on the pool.  After all, maybe it’s connected to the sea but a tunnel no one knows about.  And, if that’s the case, you never know exactly what you could catch.

The heart of the book is really Marco’s imagination of what he might catch if he keeps fishing.  It’s quite imaginative, and covers a wide range of fish from the real to the almost real (I don’t think catfish look so much like cats) to the absurd.  But it’s that imagination that Dr. Seuss is best known for, and it is on full display here.  There are things that will make adults grin and entertain kids.  And it might just help spark the imagination of kids.

This is one of Dr. Seuss’s early books.  That means the rhymes aren’t quite as sharp as they would be in his classics.  The drawings are much more detailed than in some of his easy readers.  They are all pen and ink.  Some pages are just black and white while others are full color.

I wouldn’t categorize this as one of his best books.  As I said, the rhymes aren’t as sharp as they could be, and the list of fish Marco might catch seems to be a little repetitive.  Still, it is fun.  I enjoyed it as a kid, and the nostalgia factor makes me smile still as I read it.

This is one of the six books that has been banned this year.  The reason is because of one page where Marco imagines Eskimo fish making their way from the arctic to McElligot’s pool.  Yes, they are dressed in the stereotypical Eskimo way.  But here’s the thing – yes, they are caricatures, but everything in the book is based on caricature.  The picture isn’t meant to be offensive, but is perfectly in the style of the rest of the book.  To single out this page is to not look at the pages in the context of the rest of the book.  And that’s sad.  (I will also only say that if this book truly went out of print because of the lack of sales, it wouldn’t have needed a press release to announce it.)

It’s a shame that today’s kids won’t be able to enjoy the magic of imagination captures in McElligot’s Pool.  It may not be one of the best from Dr. Seuss, but it still has it’s charm.

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