by Rob Eckman
I could not avoid it forever. It is time to read The Dr. Seuss Book I Swore I Would Never Read Aloud. My children’s book nemesis. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Please take a knife and twist it into my back until I am dead.
This is why: This little, beguiling book is very, very difficult for me to read aloud. It just is. I have never read it at story hour, on purpose. I cannot even read it to myself out loud because before long I am shaking my head in frustration and just give up. For a tiny book it feels so LONG! It never seemed long when my mom read it to me. When I tell my friends who are parents that I am reading it this week they confess they used the hide the book to avoid reading it to their little ones. At least I am not alone.
I have rehearsed and rehearsed and as I get more comfortable with these 250 different words, I begin to see the progression of the book as a sort of vaudevillian show featuring a parade of characters including a narrator, a little boy and girl, and various other weird creatures with insane names, the most recurring of which is a shaggy and furry fellow with the ordinary name of Ned.
Poor Ned. Poor, long suffering Ned. Dear blogosphere, I ask you to consider Ned one of the great martyrs in literature. He appears on only three pages but does nothing but complain. I am no doctor but this is my mental diagnosis of Ned: He is a recluse because he never leaves his vermin-infested house and is probably a germaphobe because he only communicates by telephone. He must be an insomniac and is definitely passive aggressive. Poor, miserable Ned–if he could only step forward in time from 1960, he might at least get comfort knowing that he has the cellular option of telephone service versus his rodent-chomped landline. Poor Ned. Such pain and misery all packed into 98 monosyllabic words.
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish has sold more than six million copies since being published in 1960.