The weather has finally warmed up enough so that after we played plumber, watched half of TOY STORY2, and loaded up the airplane-spaceship for a flight, we ended up on the three-season porch. When grandson suggested we bring toys out, I suggested we read instead.
He agreed and brought me a book from the pile. It happened to be CAT IN THE HAT, and it may be that he’d seen the recent hoopla over National Read Across America Day (March 2) – which, in most of our local elementary schools, is actually Dr. Seuss’ Birthday. It may be that the bright blue cover with The Cat himself on the cover caught his eye, but he brought the book over to me. I sat him down on an overturned milk crate, and reading upside down (have you EVER considered that strange skill? The psychological implications are fascinating! But that might be for another PIE…) began the story.
I don’t know if I’ve ever tried to read this to him. I don’t know if mom or dad tried to read this to him. I DO know that he loves GREEN EGGS AND HAM – “I do not like them…” we always pause to let grandson fill in…”Sam I Am!”
I started the book and grandson listened intently, looking at the pictures and for some reason, seeming to connect the spoken words with the images.
Let me just say here that he does word recognition – he can tell when we write his name or when we point out a Target sign, and maybe his sister’s name or the words MOM and DAD. While he doesn’t read yet, I think he may be on the very cusp of that strangely Human ability. [An aside – and the sole reason I’d classify this as a PIE – with all the arguments and attempts to classify Humans as “just another part of the animal kingdom”; the efforts to show that Koko can sign; Kanzi a bonobo “is believed to understand more human language than any other nonhuman animal in the world;” and “N'kisi...an African Grey Parrot thought to exhibit advanced English talking skills and other abilities.”; not one of them can read or write. And my grandson CAN write letters. I personally, can also write letters. See? For me, this defines the deeply held belief that Humans are not “just another part of the animal kingdom”.]
He laughed at page 13 where The Cat In The Hat balanced the fishbowl on the end of his umbrella. He REALLY laughed on page 16 at the picture of The Can balancing on a ball while holding a cup, a cake, a boat, some books, and plate with a bottle and glass of milk on it. That was when he pulled the milk crate closer.
That was when I realized that THE CAT IN THE HAT was an entirely new story to him. He had no idea what was about to happen. He was in so much suspense that he had to get closer to the story so he could drink it in; so he could live in the world the words were weaving in his mind’s eye, even though he could see the pictures on the page.
He was absorbed; enthralled; and no less impressed than you or I would be with WORDS OF RADIANCE (Brandon Sanderson’s newest best seller).
My challenge as a writer then is, “How can I write something that’s completely new?” knowing the ancient adage: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) has been around longer probably than the Bible.
HOW do I do it?