Monday, February 08, 2016

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

(Graded Reader)

By including this book on my Graded Reader Book Review List, I'm breaking my own rules twice over.
First of all, this is not the first time I've encountered this book.  It was a staple of my childhood, just like it was a staple of everyone's childhood.

Secondly, it's not a Graded Reader.
Or, actually, it is kind of.  It was deliberately designed as a reader to teach children how to read.  And it was designed from a restricted word list.

Or so it is claimed.  Although accounts of how many words were on this list, and what they actually were, seem to differ--see Wikipedia article HERE--and the book contains a lot of idiomatic language that I find it hard to believe was actually on a restricted word list.  For example, the use of "lit" in the sentence...
This is not a good game,” Said our fish as he lit.
...confuses even me as a native speaker, and the exact meaning of this sentence is a subject of debate on various parts of the Internet (LINK HERE).

But whether the story of the word list Dr. Seuss was confined to is apocryphal or not, the book contains a lot of very simple, short sentences, that are usually very easy to understand (the example above being one of the few exceptions) and thus make it great for the ESL classroom.

Other Notes:
1) Childhood being a long time ago, I had completely forgotten the role played by the fish in this story until re-reading it with my class.
It's a wonderful touch of the absurd.  Of all the things in the house, you would think the one that has the least investment in keeping the house clean is the fish.  I mean, it's a fish.  It stays in it's tiny little fishbowl all day.  What does it care if the rest of the house dissolves into chaos or not?
And yet, it's the fish that gets the most upset when the Cat in the Hat starts disrupting things.  And it's the fish that gets the most worried about what mother will think of the mess.
It's this kind of subverted expectation that makes Dr. Seuss wonderfully bizarre.

2) According to Wikipedia (W), Dr. Seuss once described his own story thus:  "The Cat in the Hat is a revolt against authority, but it's ameliorated by the fact that the Cat cleans up everything at the end. It's revolutionary in that it goes as far as Kerensky and then stops. It doesn't go quite as far as Lenin."[41]
Huh...and here was me thinking it was just a silly kid's story for all these years.

3) Something I noticed, when creating my own materials to supplement this book, is that capitalization is inconsistent throughout the book.  Sometimes it will be the Cat in the Hat, sometimes the cat in the hat.  For the sake of consistency, I usually went for the Cat in the Hat myself.

This book is available on amazon.com here.

Here are some supplementary teaching materials I made when teaching this book in my classes.  These materials don't really work too well independently of the actual book, so you'll need to get a copy of the book to use these.
When I taught this book, I divided it into three parts and spread it across three lessons.

PowerPoints: Part 1 (driveslidespub), Part 2 (driveslidespub), Part 3 (driveslidespub)

Worksheets: Part 1 (drivedocspub), Part 2 (drivedocspub), Part 3 (drivedocspub)

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky - Talk on Markets and Democracy -

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