Who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss? I’ve certainly been a fan since before I could read myself. In the case of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, though, I simply could never understand why the father was always encouraging his son to observe what was happening and to feel excited about it, but then to always tell the truth without any embellishments. I’m not sure why, but as a child, this seemed illogical. In my childish view, by experiencing excitement over what he saw, the child was able to create something incredibly beautiful. In not sharing that with his father, he failed to share the truth of what he fully perceived. His father encouraged him to see and feel excitement about the world, but then did not actually want to hear the embellishments this boy came up with in his excitement over what he saw. Interestingly, I did not see this as a father encouraging a boy to appreciate what was really there, but instead a father encouraging a child to never share what he truly saw.
As an adult, I am certain this is not what Dr. Seuss intended with this book. Perhaps instead it was about appreciating the simplicity of what was truly there, about not feeling the need to embellish, but rather to rejoice in what truly was. Still, for me, as a child, this was a father who did not appreciate the unique perspective of his son - not in these words, of course, but for me, this book was about injustice and the unfair lens that adults often imposed upon children. This book made sense to me because after all, wasn’t I always, as a child, being misunderstood, told what to do and not to do, without anyone ever asking why I did what I did. Wasn’t I always somehow the victim of adults around me, my every thought and action dictated by the ones who knew better, who were older and wiser than me?
Perhaps more than the text though, I truly loved the pictures. The idea that this boy, with imagination alone, could embellish a simple cart and horse into what it became was magnificent. Always, this book for me, was about the power of imagination. As an adult, I think the simplicity of the changing pictures really make the book. The transition from what we see on pages two and three to what we see in the final pages is amazing. I think, in fact, this book gives us a perfect example of how the white space on a page can become a part of the story being told. The sheer amount of white space in the beginning that is overtaken by colors, that grow and grow and grow, throughout the book, tells as much of the story as anything else. As the color spread from one page to the two, as the words are condensed into smaller spaces and the colors of the pictures expand, the reader is taken on a journey through this child’s imagination.