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If I Ran the Zoo (Classic Seuss) by Dr.…

If I Ran the Zoo (Classic Seuss) (original 1950; edition 1950)

by Dr. Seuss (Author)

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1,759468,236 (3.9)21
If Gerald McGrew ran the zoo, he'd let all the animals go and fill it with more unusual beasts--a ten-footed lion, an Elephant-Cat, a Mulligatawny, a Tufted Mazurka, and others.
Title:If I Ran the Zoo (Classic Seuss)
Authors:Dr. Seuss (Author)
Info:Random House Books for Young Readers (1950), Edition: 1st, 64 pages
Collections:Your library

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If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss (1950)


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Fun to read aloud, as all of Seuss' books are but there are a few signs of the era in which it was written that don't translate well to present day. The creatures are such fun though! ( )
  Martialia | Sep 28, 2022 |
This book is so sweet and smart! They are censuring this, really? Is the world going crazy? I am so grateful for the existence of ebooks, that allow me to have access to books cut from circulation... This is a scary time we live in. ( )
1 vote Clarissa_ | May 11, 2021 |
Visiting the city zoo in this rhyming romp of a picture-book, young Gerald McGrew imagines what he would do, if he were in charge. Setting free all of the "boring" animals like lions and tigers, he would go on a worldwide hunt for more unusual creatures, from a ten-footed lion to an Elephant-Cat. What follows is an ever more imaginative list of fictional creatures that Gerald would track down and capture, to make McGrew's Zoo the best in the world...

Originally published in 1950, and awarded a Caldecott Honor in 1951, If I Ran the Zoo was Dr. Seuss' eighth picture-book, and feels very much akin to the earlier McElligot's Pool, published in 1947, and also awarded a Caldecott Honor (in 1948). Both books contain a wildly creative list of fictional creatures - fish and other aquatic life in McElligot's Pool, terrestrial and avian species in If I Ran the Zoo - all dreamt up by the young boy-narrator. Both also feature Seuss' strikingly expressive cartoon-style artwork that makes such excellent use of color and form to create a visual landscape full of both wonder and humor. In McElligot's Pool, the artwork alternated to great effect between black-and-white drawings and full-color watercolor paintings, whereas here, the illustrations are done in black line, with full color accents. This latter may take the form of colorful figures against a white page, or it may consist of a page that is itself a deep color - the black background on the page with the Iota, or the red background behind the family of deer with interconnected horns (AKA antlers) - but in either case, the result is far more colorful than in many of the artist's previous titles. It's easy to see why both of these books received the Caldecott Honor, and it's tempting to read them as companions to one another, although I am aware of the subsequent If I Ran the Circus (1956), which might also be considered a companion.

The text in If I Ran the Zoo seems to offer a further development of Dr. Seuss' wordplay, as there are far more made-up creatures here than in any previous titles - Joats, Lunks, Iotas, Thwerlls, Chuggs, Tufted Mazurkas, and so on - and more onomatopoeic adaptations of existing words: "And, speaking of birds, there's the Russian Palooski, / Whose headski is redski and belly is blueski. / I'll get one of them for my Zooski McGrewski." Unlike so many of Seuss' other books, I never read this one as a child - this is, in fact, my first encounter with it - but if I had, I can imagine that I might well have loved it for its inventiveness. Then again, I might well have loathed it for its blithe acceptance of the idea of hunting down and imprisoning the marvelous, or for its snide attitude toward some of the people Gerald encounters. More on that anon. I chose to finally pick it up at this moment in time because I am currently undertaking a Seuss retrospective, in which I will be reading and reviewing all forty-four of his classic picture-books, in chronological publication order. This is a project that I began as an act of personal protest against the suppression of six of the author/artist's titles - this one, as well as And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, McElligot's Pool, Scrambled Eggs Super!, On Beyond Zebra! and The Cat's Quizzer - by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, an action I consider both absurd and ill-judged.

I am opposed to this decision on the part of Dr. Seuss Enterprises both on principle - the effects of self-censorship on the part of publishers and news media being every bit as deleterious to a culture of free expression, as anything a tyrannical government could enact - and, in the case of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and McElligot's Pool, reviewed previously, on the merits of the individual books themselves. Although there were caricatures in these two earlier titles that I found to be racially and culturally insensitive, they lacked the kind of animus I would think necessary for them to be judged racist, or for any kind of action to reasonably be taken against them (assuming one believed that such an action should ever be taken in the first place). That is, of course, a subjective judgment, and I understand it is by no means universal. As I mentioned in my review of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, it is not my place to tell others what they should find offensive or hurtful in the books they read, any more than it is their place to tell me. Unlike some of the self-appointed guardians of morality out there who seem to be applauding this development in censoriousness, I myself was not offended by the titles in question, and did not find them hateful. Sadly, I cannot say the same with this one.

Unlike the aforementioned caricatures in And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and McElligot's Pool, I found the ostensibly offensive elements in If I Ran the Zoo truly objectionable. I think the difference is that in the earlier books, the depictions in question - the Chinese man with sticks in And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, the "Eskimo" (AKA Inuit) man next to his igloo in McElligot's Pool - were not demeaning, even though they were satirical, and relied upon stereotype (the Chinese person with chopsticks, the Inuit person in the furry anorak). One could argue that all of Seuss' work is satirical, and that everyone depicted in his books is a bit of a caricature, whatever their racial and cultural background. Here however, the non-European characters are all depicted in ways that not only draw attention to their racial status - the Asian helpers who, according to the text, "all wear their eyes at a slant" - but also invariably show them in subservient roles, or else equate them to animals. The aforementioned Asian helpers who go marching along, carrying a cage on their heads, with Gerald McGrew confidently riding along on top. The tribal chieftain from the Desert of Zind, who, like his Mulligatawny steed, would make a good addition to the zoo, in the narrator's opinion. The eight Persian Princes carrying the Gusset, Gherkin, Gasket and Gootch, whose names (unlike those of the animals they carry) don't need to be remembered. The two little beings - apparently meant to be Central African pygmies? - who carry the Tufted Mazurka from the African island of Yerka, whom I didn't even realize were meant to be human at first, given their depiction. All of these scenes were deeply distasteful to me, and so too was the overarching story-line. The idea of scouring the world for the most wondrous and magical of creatures, only to shove them into tiny cages, would have deeply distressed me as a child, and makes me faintly queasy even now, as an adult.

Clearly, If I Ran the Zoo isn't destined to become one of my favorites, when it comes to Dr. Seuss' work, and I can understand why other readers have found it so offensive, given my own reaction to it. As mentioned above, I am opposed to the suppression of this or any other book, through any form of censorship (including self censorship on the part of the publisher or copyright holder), and I certainly did not approach it with any predisposition to disapprove of it. Nevertheless, disapprove of it I did, and I would not choose to recommend it to, nor to share it with young people, nor would I condemn others - parents, teachers, librarians, storytellers - from following that same course. By the same token however, I would not condemn those who continue to read the book, either to themselves or to the children in their care, and I cannot approve of that choice being taken away from them. They are not bound by my opinions, or by the opinions of any other. In a free society it is no one's place to tell them what they should and should not read, and how they should interpret what they do read. I have seen the argument advanced that the suppression of these Dr. Seuss books is meant, like all forms of (supposedly) benign censorship, to prevent harm, but I think the harm created by the suppression of any work of art and/or literature far outweighs any potential harm created by the consumption of that work of art or literature. People like to decide these things for themselves. I know I do, and I reject outright the idea that I should substitute another's judgment for my own. Thus far in my reading project, I have found two cases where I didn't agree with the critics, and one where I did. I will continue to read, and to think for myself, and hope others will as well. Those who would deny me that right would do well to recall that forbidding something, even obliquely, through suppression rather than outright ban, is to give it great power. In the end, censorious acts are not just totalitarian in nature, but ultimately both stupid and futile. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Mar 24, 2021 |
If Gerald McGrew ran the zoo, he'd let all the animals go and fill it with more unusual beasts--a ten-footed lion, an Elephant-Cat, a Mulligatawny, a Tufted Mazurka, and others.
  brudder | Mar 5, 2021 |
Now this is my kind of Seuss! Little boys have the wildest imaginations, so Seuss harnesses this endless creativity to showcase a vast range of Seussical animals. From ridiculously tufted birds to creatures that must be wooed with culunary greatness our narrator, Gerald McGrew, tells us exactly how he would travel the world to collect the most stunning creatures imaginable. Lions and tigers and bears might be great, but who wouldn't want to see a zoo filled with Seuss' whimsical animals! ( )
  JaimieRiella | Feb 25, 2021 |
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For Toni and Michael Gordon Tackaberry Thompson
First words
"It's a pretty good zoo," Said young Gerald McGrew, "And the fellow who runs it Seems proud of it, too."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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If Gerald McGrew ran the zoo, he'd let all the animals go and fill it with more unusual beasts--a ten-footed lion, an Elephant-Cat, a Mulligatawny, a Tufted Mazurka, and others.

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If Gerald McGrew ran the zoo, he'd let all the animals go and fill it with more unusual beasts--a ten-footed lion, an Elephant-Cat, a Mulligatawny, a Tufted Mazurka, and others.

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