This year celebrates the 65th Anniversary of the publication of Horton Hears a Who!, that was written and illustrated by the beloved children’s author Dr Seuss and published by Random House in 1954. In celebration of this magical children’s book, I take a stroll down memory lane and review this ever-popular publication:
Splashing in the water in the Jungle of Nool, Horton the elephant hears a very faint noise coming from a speck of dust. He soon realises that there are very small persons that need help and he tries to keep the speck of dust in a safe spot. The other jungle animals think that Horton has lost the plot, how could there be tiny people on this speck? Thinking Horton is a fool; the jungle animals steal the speck of dust and hide it. No one believes Horton but he doesn’t give up. There is an entire universe on that speck and they need to be saved! Will Horton be able to help all the people of Whoville; will their voice be heard? After all, ‘a person is a person no matter how small!’
The main theme of ‘Horton Hears a Who!’ – ‘a persons a person no matter how small’ – surprisingly has a poignant historical origin. It was Dr Seuss’s reaction to his visit to Japan after World War II, where the importance of the individual was an exciting new concept. Seuss, who had harboured strong anti-japan sentiments before and during World War II, changed his views dramatically after a trip to Japan in 1953 and used Horton Hears a Who! as an allegory for the American post-war occupation of the country. In an interview, he said, “Japan was just emerging, the people were voting for the first time, running their own lives—and the theme was obvious: ‘A person’s a person, no matter how small,’ though I don’t know how I ended up using elephants.” Seuss dedicated the book to his Japanese friend Nakamura.
Horton Hears a Who! is still a favourite among parents who read to their children 65 years on from its original publication. With its jolly rhymetastic style that is familiar with the works of Seuss, it teaches children that it is vital for us humans, like Horton, to concern ourselves with the smallest and most helpless among us. To help those who don’t always have a voice. It also teaches confidence; if you’re one of those people who feels small and unheard like the Whos, demand to be noticed. Its popularity has since seen the book be transformed into a film in 2008 by 20th Century fox, following in the path of Seuss’s other works, The Grinch That Stole Christmas, The Cat in the Hat and The Lorax. It is these nonsensical rhymes that have come with such great reason that make Dr Seuss one of the most celebrated children’s authors 65 years on from his publication of his popular, Horton Hears a Who!.
Watch the trailer for the 2008 movie adaptation below: