Dr. Seuss, — AKA Theodor Seuss Geisel — changed children’s literature forever with his whimsical characters, unique use of words, and by introducing big themes into his stories without being too preachy. Dr. Seuss books not only entertain children and stretch their imaginations far beyond reality, they also impart life lessons and teach children about issues like war, climate change, fascism, and greed in a way that’s approachable for children. The author wrote nearly 50 books before he died in 1991 at the age of 87. While some of them contain harmful stereotypes that reflect the racism of the time and the author’s own prejudices, there are still good messages in the good books. Not all Seuss is bad!
We combed through all of Dr. Seuss’s greatest hits to find the books with the best messages and life lessons within them.
This book is mostly known for its Yertle the Turtle story, but it also contains Gertrude McFuzz, which tackles greed and vanity, and The Big Brag. Yertle the Turtle is about King Yertle who decides that he isn’t happy with his kingdom, despite the fact that he has everything he needs. He wants to reach the moon, so he makes his turtle subjects form a ladder so he can reach it. The turtle at the bottom, Mack, suffers the most and tells the king he’s in pain and hungry. When Mack finally collapses and the turtles come tumbling down, your young one will have learned something about authoritarianism and dictators. It’s available on Amazon here.
When your kids are feeling a little sad or even ungrateful, Dr. Seuss’s Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? is the perfect cure. Your kids will learn from the wise old man from the Desert of Drize about optimism and gratitude.
The Yooks and Zooks are two different groups that enjoy using butter differently. They go to war over it. It might sound completely ridiculous, but countries have gone to war over ideological differences before. This allegory was written about the Cold War in 1984 and criticizes the arms race. The Butter Battle also teaches kids how to respect differences and be tolerant. This book is available for purchase on Amazon here.
This Dr. Seuss book is often gifted to recent high school and college graduates before they head off into the world, but that doesn’t mean you should save this book until then. You can read Oh, the Places You’ll Go to your kids now. This book will teach them about how they can reach for their wildest dreams and that life is the ultimate balancing act. Buy this book on Amazon here.
The star-bellied Sneetches look down upon plain-bellied Sneetches. Conflict grows between the two groups until an entrepreneur comes into town with a machine that paints stars on the plain-bellied Sneetches. The Sneeches and Other Stories imparts a lesson about how you shouldn’t classify someone or make assumptions about someone because of their appearance.
Thidwick has a big heart and some pretty big antler. He lets creatures take residence up in his antlers. He wants to help absolutely everyone, but his new residences start to take advantage of his kindness. When Thidwick is in danger and is too weighed down to move, he learns to stand up for himself. It’s great to help people, but sometimes even adults have trouble saying “no.” Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose provides plenty of good teaching moment for kids—and maybe even you.
One of Dr. Seuss’s most beloved books follows an elephant named Horton after he finds that a speck of dust is actually a small planet called Whoville. He believes that everyone should be treated equally. The other animals of the jungle ridicule Horton for believing in something he can’t see or hear and even try to hurt poor Horton. This groundbreaking book will teach your children about equality and that standing up for something you believe in can be difficult.
You all know the story and your kids might have even watched the TV special, which Seuss illustrated himself. Maybe switch it up this holiday season and read the story of the Grinch out loud with your family. Everyone needs a reminder of what Christmas is actually about now and again.
This young narrator, who vaguely resembles a cat or a dog, has a lot of problems and decides the best way to deal with them is to run away from them. Over the course of I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew, the narrator learns that they must confront their problems head-on. This is a great lesson for kids of all ages.
This book is one of Dr. Seuss’s most famous books with a message. The Once-ler starts tearing down the Truffula trees to make garments for his new business. The Lorax appears out of the stump of the tree and says that he speaks for the trees as they have no tongues. The Lorax warns the Once-ler to stop what he’s doing, but the Once-ler continues to tear down the trees and creatures flee their environment. This book is extremely relevant as it stresses the importance of the environment and how we can’t let corporate greed destroy it.