Tuesday, 19 December 2017

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr Seuss Review


“All the windows were dark
No one knew he was here
All the Who's were all dreaming
Sweet dreams without care…”

I’ve always been aware of The Grinch for as long as I can remember but I’ve never actually read Dr Seuss’s classic, How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Well, what better time to rectify that than in December, eh? I’m glad I now finally have but I found it a bit underwhelming.

You probably know the story already but for those who don’t: a grumpy monster called The Grinch decides to steal all the presents and trimmings out of the homes in Whoville on Christmas eve in an attempt to ruin his most hated holiday. Though, of course, it ends happily and sappily with The Grinch learning a valuable lesson about the true meaning of Christmas.

I loved seeing Dr Seuss’s art again. His unique, imaginative, loopy, almost haunting in a weird way, visual style took me right back to my childhood. The Grinch is a great character too, from his name to his design, and a wonderful addition to Christmas as a whole – I can’t argue with his appeal and cultural impact.

But this book doesn’t have Dr Seuss’s best rhymes. He rhymes “noise” with “noise”, “feast” with “feast”, “sing” with “sing”, and so on – unlike his other books, the couplets aren’t very clever or imaginative. The ending is very abrupt too – almost jarring – in how suddenly it wraps things up.

My biggest criticism though is telling kids that Christmas isn’t about material presents but about something more substantial, meaningful and profound like community, friends and family. A laudable sentiment from an adult’s perspective, and understandable coming from a childless man like Dr Seuss was; except, for kids, Christmas IS about material presents – that’s the whole point! That goes away when you grow up – nowadays for me, I look forward to the break from work, sleeping in, the food, the drink; I couldn’t give a fig for the presents! And snow? Bah! An annoying seasonal inconvenience! – but I remember how excited I got about opening the presents on Christmas Day and playing in the snow when I were a whippersnapper. The message in this book, attempting to take that joy away from kids, is an almost Grinch-like sentiment! Let kids be kids - let them enjoy the superficiality and the presents, and guilt them into charity, etc. after they’ve grown up and lost interest in that aspect of Christmas.

I’ll probably be accused of being too Grinch-y myself in being in any way critical of this beloved children’s classic, and it’s a fine story if a bit too plain and unremarkable, but How The Grinch Stole Christmas definitely isn't among Dr Seuss's best books. A good side effect of reading this book though was reminding me of Aimee Mann and Grant-Lee Phillips’ immensely catchy cover of You’re A Mean One, Mr Grinch which I highly recommend listening to and which I quoted from at the top of the review.

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