Celebrating Dr. Seuss

If you spend any amount of time reminiscing on your childhood, chances are you will remember reading a book authored by Theodor Seuss Geisel, more famously known as Dr. Seuss. Books like The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! have become iconic works within the realm of children’s literature and pop culture. Today, we are celebrating what would have been Theodor’s 116th birthday, and what better way to celebrate than by looking back at his most memorable works?

Horton Hears a Who! (1954)

Horton the Elephant discovers the microscopic planet of Whoville after hearing what he thought was a talking speck of dust. He places Whoville on a clover and vows to protect the town from all the dangers of the much larger world that surrounds the tiny community. However, Horton is harassed by the other animals of the jungle for caring about people whom they cannot see or hear. This does not stop him from going to great lengths to ensure the safety of Whoville after they are captured by a black-bottomed eagle. When the other animals threaten to destroy the small town, Horton implores Whoville to make as much noise as possible to prove their existence. After the smallest shirker of Whoville cries out, the animals finally hear the town and promise to preserve it.

Considering the time period in which it was written, Horton Hears a Who! is very much reflective of the social conscious Geisel possessed. The 1950s saw the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement in America, as well as a great deal of animosity towards nations of the Axis Powers in the recently resolved World War II. With many of the racial minorities experiencing systematic marginalization, Geisel encourages these oppressed groups of people to speak out against the injustices they encounter. Even while these individuals represented a small portion of the American population (in the same way that the Whos of Whoville were microscopic compared to the animals), Geisel still pushes for them to use their collective voice for good, for “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”

The Cat in the Hat (1957)

Perhaps his most widely celebrated work, Geisel tells the story of two siblings left alone on a boring, rainy day until a cat enters the house with many games and tricks to entertain the children. The children’s fish discourages the cat’s activities, to which the cat responds by balancing the fish on his umbrella. The cat eventually brings out two identical characters, Thing 1 and Thing 2, both of whom wreak havoc throughout the house and create a giant mess just before the children’s mother comes home. After the Things are caught in a net, the cat quickly cleans everything in the house before the children’s mother walks through the door.

Geisel creates an interesting dynamic between the troublesome cat and the paranoid fish to represent the children’s conflicting desires between chaotic entertainment and orderly obedience. Even as the cat brings a fair amount of trouble into the house, his eagerness in attempting to brighten the gloomy day of the kids makes him a jovial and likeable character. On the opposite side, the fish’s longing for order dampens the cheeriness that the cat brings into the house, despite the fish having good intentions. Geisel’s ability to speak to the childish and imaginative nature of older readers while simultaneously simplifying his language for the younger audience makes for a classic story appealing to audiences of all ages.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957)

The Grinch, who dwells in a cave high above Whoville, is annoyed by the cheery, Christmas spirit of all the Whos below him, so he devises a plan to dress up as Santa and steal the presents, trees, and feasts in Whoville. With his dog dressed as a reindeer, the Grinch flies down to the town and sneaks into the first house to enact his plan when he is interrupted by a little girl, Cindy Lou Who. She asks why he is taking the Christmas tree away, and the Grinch lies about fixing the tree’s lights before sending her back to bed. After he has stolen all the presents, trees, and fire logs from Whoville, the Grinch returns to his cave, only to hear the Whos belt out a joyous Christmas tune. Shocked by the Whos’ unwavering high spirits, the Grinch comes to realize that the meaning of Christmas expands beyond material possessions, and he gives all the belongings back to the Whos, with his heart growing three times its previous size.

Geisel puts a unique twist on the tale of Christmas by shifting the main perspective to an unhappy, yet strangely relatable, pessimistic protagonist. What the Grinch goes through is indicative of Geisel’s belief in people’s ability to change for the better, no matter how far gone they appear. In this sense, Geisel is not only speaking to the Grinches of his audience, but also those who know a Grinch. Obviously, if you’re being a stinky little Grinch, your attitude needs to change. However, if you see someone who is a Grinch, do not berate them. Show them the same kindness you would want to be shown if you were being a Grinch.

Green Eggs and Ham (1960)

Sam-I-Am spends almost the entirety of the book trying to convince his friend, Guy-Am-I, to try a plate of green eggs and ham. Even though Guy-Am-I adamantly refuses his offer multiple times, Sam-I-Am persists in asking, following Guy-Am-I to numerous locations. Finally, Guy-Am-I decides to try the dish just to get Sam-I-Am to leave him alone, and he ends up enjoying green eggs and ham much more than he thought.

Green Eggs and Ham is one of the more interesting works in Geisel’s catalog, as its simplistic vocabulary is not merely a product of writing for young children. After Cat in the Hat employed a total of 236 words, Bennett Cerf, Geisel’s publisher, bet that Geisel couldn’t write a book without exceeding that word count. As a result, Green Eggs and Ham was completed with only 50 words being used. So while he was challenging his young audience to expand their horizons by trying new things, Geisel was challenging himself in his own creative endeavors. He was willing to practice what he preached.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990)

The narrator speaks directly to the reader while detailing the journey of an unnamed character going through the highs and lows of life. The character, representing the reader, gets to travel down the fun, opportunity-filled roads as well as the low, gloomy valleys. One of these low places is “The Waiting Place,” where everyone is waiting for their situation to improve, but the narrator implores the reader to get up and create a better life for him/herself. The narrator challenges the reader to fight for success despite the roadblocks faced.

One of the most popular graduation gifts, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! was the last book published during Geisel’s lifetime and serves as a challenge to the generations coming after him. Instead of crafting a narrative with specific characters and events like many of his past works, Geisel opts for speaking directly to the reader and uses his own reflection on the ups-and-downs of life to encourage younger generations as they enter new stages of life. The book functions as a wonderful model of Geisel’s youthful optimism which extended through the entirety of his life.

While it’s likely that most of us haven’t thought about Dr. Seuss in a few years, the impact he continues to have on children’s literature with his simplistic language and thoughtful messaging is undeniable.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Written by Ryan

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Chasing the Wind: A Book Review

When I was younger, I constantly searched for books that would suit my fancy. While sauntering through the library, a book would grab my attention. I would run my fingers across the title and flip through the soft, thick pages. Instantly, my passion for reading was ignited. Today, not much has changed. I still seek to read interesting books that contain romance, sadness, joy, and a strong message. What is one of my favorite books? Well, thank you for asking. The autobiography entitled Chasing the Wind by William Boyd Chisum is one of my favorites because it includes each of these elements in a way that grabs and retains readers’ interest. Fun fact: this was the first book that ever made me cry like a baby. Was it from happiness or sadness? I will let you decide.

At the beginning, Chisum discusses the elements surrounding his birth. While his mother struggled during delivery, the doctors made an error that would affect Chisum’s life forever: they transfused the wrong blood into his body. Because of this negligence, Chisum faced a future filled entirely of painful surgeries, or at least that is what people told him. In a time of desperation, his parents placed him in the Scottish Rite where he received excellent care and made many memories. Although it was an extraordinary place, he simply wanted to be home with his family leading a normal childhood. In the midst of infection and excruciating pain, he found a new passion in life: music. When he could not grasp or understand everything going on in his life, he grabbed a guitar and sang for the staff and residents. As a young boy, he experienced horrific things that no person should ever experience during his or her lifetime. Through it all, he persevered.

As he got older, he continued to pursue his passion for music. In fact, he toured the country and sang with Diamond Rio. Even with his music playing on various stations, he knew he was missing something, but he could not figure out what it was. Eventually, he met a beautiful red-headed woman with a passion for the music industry. While he was interviewing at a radio station in New Mexico, he became smitten, which introduces the love aspect that every great book needs. The two started dating and eventually married in a small ceremony with close family and friends. During this time, he also found a passion for Christ and a new meaning for life.

While their love continued to grow, they desired to start a family of their own. After five years of continual praying, the doctors told them the best news they could receive: she was pregnant! Nine short months later, she went through a strenuous labor. After many scares during the delivery, she gave birth to a large, but adorable, baby boy, who would be the apple of both their eyes for the rest of their lives. Despite more health issues, Chisum realized that God was calling him to become a PA for an Orthopedic Surgeon. After years of dutiful work in this intensely difficult field, he had to undergo another surgery. He pushed through the pain and continued to pursue Christ and His calling for Him, by touring the country with a Christian band to spread a tale of perseverance, bravery, love, and passion. Although retired, he still proclaims the faithfulness of God and shares his testimony with all. Where does this end? I will let you read the rest of the book to discover the answer.

Throughout the book, Chisum allows the reader to get to know him through the words he uses. He tackles hard subjects with a twinge of humor to make sure readers are paying attention. Best of all, he incorporates Scriptures and the Gospel into every aspect of his work. In each of his hardships, he persevered. When everyone expressed their doubts about him, he pushed past them. He is a survivor, and it is not of his own accord. It was, and still is, Christ working through him. If you are looking for an inspiring book to read, then I will always recommend investing your time and money reading this autobiography. I can guarantee you that it is 100% worth it.

Written by Trisha

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The Servant Leadership of King

In preparation for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I wanted to learn more about the man we remember, mourn, and celebrate each January. So I headed to the library and rented one of King’s classic works: Why We Can’t Wait.

This book was written in retrospect of the Birmingham Campaign of 1963, a movement organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to shed light on the integration efforts of Birmingham African Americans. Throughout its pages, King eloquently discusses the causes of that momentous summer as well as its many triumphs toward civil rights in both Birmingham and beyond. Additionally, the book highlights King’s fervent conviction that racial equality and reconciliation could no longer wait to be achieved.

As I read, I quickly realized that King’s thoughts, descriptions, and anecdotes would provide a wealth of directions in which to take this blog. However, one theme in particular stood out to me, and that was servant leadership. Those words get thrown around a lot on the DBU campus, sometimes to the point where they begin to mean very little to us. But the fact remains that servant leadership is integral to mirroring the character of Christ, and what better way to learn it than studying servant leaders of the past?

While King demonstrated servant leadership in a variety of situations throughout the campaign, there is one moment that stands out as a beacon to guide those striving toward servant leadership. It came in the late spring of 1963. Just as the Birmingham Campaign was gaining momentum and attention, there came news that threatened the entire movement: the bondsman who had previously been supplying bail for all arrested demonstrators would be unable to continue this service. In the thirtieth room of the Gaston Motel, twenty-five prominent leaders of the campaign sat and questioned whether to proceed as planned and personally participate in demonstrations despite the new lack of bail money. With regard to this moment, King writes:

I sat there, conscious of twenty-four pairs of eyes. I thought about the people in jail. I thought about the Birmingham Negroes already lining the streets of the city, waiting to see me put into practice what I had so passionately preached. How could my failure now to submit to arrest be explained to the local community? What would be the verdict of the country about a man who had encouraged hundreds of people to make a stunning sacrifice and then excused himself? (King 79-80).

Undoubtedly, there were a host of reasons for King and his fellow leaders not to put themselves on the front lines and at risk of arrest. If they did, who would take up the torch to rally and lead the remaining demonstrators? Who would stand at the pulpits on Easter Sunday and preach the good news of Christ’s resurrection, which gave so many African Americans the hope they needed to challenge injustice? And perhaps the most frightening question of all, who would work tirelessly to secure another source of bail, which would be needed to release both leaders and hundreds of wrongly imprisoned demonstrators?

King had no answers to these pressing questions, and as he sat pondering them, avoiding arrest would have clearly seemed the wisest course of action. But this was not the decision he made. Instead, King told his fellow leaders, “‘I don’t know what will happen; I don’t know where the money will come from. But I have to make a faith act’” (King 81). Instead of excusing himself, King made a bold decision of faith in the face of uncertainty, which ultimately led to his imprisonment alongside the Birmingham demonstrators.

King acted as a servant by coming alongside his people as an equal, struggling toward a common goal. He displayed leadership by making a difficult decision and encouraging others to follow his example of faith. While some might argue that King’s decision to participate in the Birmingham demonstrations was unwise, the fruits of King’s imprisonment speak otherwise. Much like Paul, King’s time in jail was used by God in mighty ways. There, King drafted his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, in which he respectfully addressed and rebuked those who did not support the nonviolent direct-action movement.

Countless positive outcomes resulted from the servant leadership of King and many others during the Birmingham Campaign. Some of these include strides toward the desegregation of lunch counters and other public areas, plans to hire African Americans on a non-discriminatory basis, actions to release all persons wrongfully jailed for their participation in the campaign, and avenues for better communication between African Americans and Whites. Truly, without King’s willingness to be a servant leader, the city of Birmingham, and indeed America, would not be what they are today. While it is sometimes hard to believe, never doubt that God can and does call people like you and me to be servant leaders who change communities, cities, states, countries, and with enough faith, the world.

Written by Meredith (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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King, Jr. Martin L. Why We Can’t Wait. 1964. Beacon Press, 2010.

To check availability or place a hold on Why We Can’t Wait at the DBU Vance Memorial Library, click here.

To find other works by King, click here.

Following the Railroad Tracks

The train station manager saw Mi Yun wandering around the empty train station, knowing she had been there for several hours. She had previously told him that she was waiting for her uncle to pick her up. He said, “‘You cannot wait here. Do you hear me? No one is coming for you!’ Hanging her head in confusion and alarm, [Mi Yun] obeyed. The thumping in her chest started again. Tears burned her eyes as she stumbled back to the ox cart… Mommy, I need you!” After being abandoned on a train by her mother, four-year-old Mi Yun spent her childhood on the streets of war-torn South Korea, scavenging for food, warmth, and love. Because her father was American and her mother was Korean, no Korean would accept her, and she was repeatedly beaten, tortured, and purposefully starved because of her origin. However, every time she was near death or so cold and hungry she wanted to die, someone would be placed in her path to remind her to never stop trying to survive. In her book She Is Mine, Stephanie Fast uses differing perspective, realistic details, and heart-wrenching events to communicate that Someone had a plan for Mi Yun no matter what happened to her.

Throughout the book, I felt as though I was in the mind of Mi Yun because Fast uses differing perspectives based on the age of Mi Yun to unfold the details of the story. When Mi Yun is young, the thought process in the book portrays that of a very young girl, who cannot understand what is going on as her mother puts her on a train alone; a girl gullible enough to believe after several days of being abandoned that her mother would still take her in if Mi Yun could only get back to her. As she sat in the cardboard box she had called her home for several days, while waiting for her uncle to pick her up, “She repeated again, ‘It will be all right. It will be all right. I will find my way back home… I will get back to my mama” (60-61). Then, as more and more people hurt her, beat her, and torture her, Mi Yun’s innocence turns to fear and hate. She stops trying to get help from the local villagers and instead hides as much as possible in shacks, burrows, and caves, stealing food and warmth whenever she could. Each encounter she has with strangers, I was immediately placed in the mind of the young girl, reading her words, thoughts, and fears. On one particular occasion when Mi Yun is caught stealing, she is grabbed by a farmer. As the farmer drags Mi Yun down the street and into a crowd of angry villagers, she cries, “‘Please don’t hurt me… I will leave… Just let me go.’ …Is there any kind person here… someone who will stand up for me, someone who will protect me? She could only see hatred, anger, and disgust on the faces of the villagers” (101). This switch between dialogue, Mi Yun’s thoughts, and narration made me feel thoroughly engrossed in the book, as if I were right there alongside the little girl.

In addition to differing perspectives, Fast also uses realistic details that kept me thoroughly engrossed in the story. For example, there are accurate descriptions of the Korean countryside scattered throughout the book, so I could picture where the events were taking place: “She saw the train tracks running along the rugged mountains… She looked to the right… and scanned the train tracks surrounded by the grass, rice paddies, and more mountains. Turning, she saw behind her only the empty countryside and even more mountains” (75). There are also many descriptive portrayals of Mi Yun: “She was tiny and beautiful in a way that was both Western and Asian. Her eyes were a bit rounder than the other children… Her hair, lighter in color than the rest, had a soft curl to it” (37). These are two of the many examples of Stephanie Fast’s excellent descriptions in She Is Mine. There are also depictions of Mi Yun’s encounters, the places she goes, and the experiences she has. These depictions allowed me to visually picture the characters and scenery, so I could imagine what Mi Yun saw as she suffered.

Finally, there are many events in this novel that caused me to deeply empathize with Mi Yun. One time, when she was caught stealing from a farmer, Mi Yun was dragged to a water mill and tied to it, and the water mill was then turned on. “[Mi Yun] didn’t quite know what was happening, except that the wheel was moving. Its slow rotation took Yoon Myoung to the top, where a flood of water spilled into her face, causing her to sputter and choke…With no time to catch her breath, she was thrust under the murky water as the wheel continued its rotation. Scraping along the graveling bottom of the pond, she felt her face being cut and bruised by the mud and gravel” (103-104). She was raped, beaten, run out of villages, suffered a fall from the hands of strangers that killed the baby she was taking care of, and nearly died from sickness. Many times, I found myself mentally yelling at the other characters, aghast at the inhumanity of the Koreans that Mi Yun encountered. However, no matter how much she went through, someone was always put in her path that cared for her, encouraged her, and helped her to keep going.

The story of Mi Yun is one that captures the interest of every reader, as they learn about the horrors she endured as a result of her origin, from being abandoned by her mother to being refused food by villagers. However, the reader is constantly reminded that someone is watching out for Mi Yun through the little things that happen to her along the way. The end of the story renews one’s confidence that God is always watching over us, no matter how hard life becomes. But, if you would like to know what this incredible ending is, you will have to read Stephanie Fast’s She Is Mine.

Written by Michelle

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Radical Christianity

Radical: Taking Back your Faith from the American Dream. The title of the book alone steps on so many toes, and the pages ahead only get more painful and uncomfortable. David Platt is the author of the book and is the current senior pastor of McLean Bible Church located in the Washington, DC metro area. He has also previously served as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board. radicalFurthermore, he has and still is one of the great heroes of the faith; I am convicted, encouraged, and challenged by his messages. I heard so much about this particular book that I had to get my hands on it to see what all the buzz was about. I was not at all prepared for what I was about to read.

Radical does not waste its time introducing the subject of Christianity or the American dream. Instead, it dives straight to scrutinizing and inspecting Western Christianity. The author does this mainly by using Scripture but also by laying out his experience as a missionary in several countries around the world. The contrast is evident and hard to swallow at times when it comes to how oversees believers practice their faith, how they go about completing the Great Commission, and how they see Christ himself.

One of the stories he shares in the book that left a lasting impression on my life as a Christian was about what occurred during his time in China. After spending some time fellowshipping with the believers there, he went on to get some rest. As he tried to slip into slumber, he heard wailing, crying, and murmuring. In the pitch dark, the Chinese believers were gathered in prayer. David leaned in and asked one of them what on earth was happening and the response was that they loved and cared for American/Western believers so much that they were praying for God to strengthen them in their faith and help them persevere. The idea that a group of Chinese believers who have to meet in secret, despite possible danger, intercede on our behalf both warmed and stung my heart. They truly see us as their brothers and sisters, but I also fear that they know, in our comfort, in our cushioned chairs and our colorful stage lights, we’ve started to become too comfortable with the way that we live and have neglected the task at hand.

Platt stresses that the Gospel the Bible preaches is different from the one preached by the American dream. The life we settle for and the earthly things that we desire do not align with the word of God. Furthermore, Radical illustrates that there is a great need in the mission field, because so many are without Christ. If we truly are crazy enough to believe the claims of Christ, then we ought to live like it. We have to realize that denying ourselves daily and radically following Christ means to risk it all to go into all the nations and preach the Gospel.

The central message of the entire book can be summarized by the following quote:

The modern-day gospel says, ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Therefore, follow these steps, and you can be saved.’ Meanwhile, the biblical gospel says, ‘You are an enemy of God, dead in your sin, and in your present state of rebellion, you are not even able to see that you need life, much less to cause yourself to come to life. Therefore, you are radically dependent on God to do something in your life that you could never do. (David Platt, Radical)

The church has been plagued by the prosperity Gospel for too long. It has ignored the true Gospel and sought the wealth, health, and comfort this world offers. God has been reduced to a genie who will attend to our wishes and commands as we see fit. We live life thinking that fulfillment is found in the degrees we accumulate, the jobs we secure, the estates we oversee, and the cars we own, yet nothing drains us more. We have made the Gospel about ourselves and our needs when the Gospel was never about us but the grace of God. Platt pleads the same truth to his audience and warns that we will not be able to stand or give an answer to the Lord when the day comes.

The book not only talks about the true calling of the Christian life, but it also points the reader to the plight of so many people around the world, while we indulge in materialism, consumerism, and the self-centered Gospel that seeks to get a hold of the next best thing for fulfillment. The Bible teaches us compassion and selfless giving; if we were to make small changes in our lives, maybe miss out on the newest iPhone and buy a lunch for the homeless around our community, it would open up the door to a greater change in our lives and the people around us. Taking small radical steps for the sake of God and others will eventually lead to a completely radical life altogether.

Reading this book was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life. Not that the truth found in it was somehow hidden or that it could answer all my questions, instead, it simply pointed out the flaws in my philosophy, everything I thought my faith in Christ looked like and turned it up-side-down. It has radically changed the way that I thought I was going to live out my life, and I am forever thankful to the author for that change. Getting the chance to hear Platt speak at Hillcrest Baptist Church only amplified the message of his book for me.

At the end of the event, I spoke with him and told him about how I’ve decided to change all my plans in full surrender to the Lord and the great impact that he has on the younger generation. The excitement and joy he got from hearing about how he has helped change our lives was barely masked by the utter exhaustion the speech and conversations with countless other people had caused.

Risking everything for the sake of the Gospel and denying ourselves the pleasure that this world offers is not an easy thing to do. When we know that his grace is sufficient, however, the yoke does become easy and the burden light, and my absolute favorite quote from the book echoes the same message:

Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us. (David Platt, 98)

Written by Kenean

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