This well-known collection is less a story than a collection of poems linked by the idea that ‘funny things are everywhere’. It’s filled with Dr Seuss’s imaginary creatures – not just red and blue fish, but the Zans, the Gox, the Gack, the Nook, the Ying, the Yink and the Yop, not to mention poor Ned in his too-little bed.
‘Dr Seuss’ was one of several pen names used by the American writer and cartoonist Theodor Seuss Geigel. Geigel had written several books before being approached by William Ellsworth Spaulding, (director of the education division at Houghton Mifflin). Spaulding had read a report on illiteracy in American schools which concluded that young children were not reading because the books were too boring. He compiled a list of 348 words he felt were important for first-graders to recognize and asked Geisel to trim the list to 250 words and write a book. This book was The Cat in the Hat, and Seuss followed it with several other lively, creative books with a vocabulary that made them accessible to young children. One Fish Two Fish was published in 1960.
The great thing about Dr Seuss books is that the constant rhymes and galloping rhythms make them a joy to read aloud. Not only that but the visual image of the rhymes on the page – for example Nook, cook, hook, book – clearly shows a young child learning to read how the change in first letter affects the pronunciation of the word. It is a subtle and effective lesson in phonics.
One Fish Two Fish is an enjoyable collection of poems. Notable highlights include a larged tusked creature in an enormous bottle being carted cheerfully home by two small children.
“Look what we found / in the park / in the dark.
We will take him home / We will call him Clark.
He will live at our house. / He will grow and grow. / Will our mother like this?
We don’t know.”
The zany, unpredictable animals are brought to life by Seuss’ dancing verse and even very young children should enjoy the sounds before they can appreciate the meaning. By no means his best, but still a good read.