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March 3, 2010

Horton Hatches the Egg

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Yesterday was the 107th birthday of Theodor Geisel from Springfield, MA. I say with a smile, my little crocodile, you may know him better as an early trendsetter, as the good Dr. Seuss, you may deduce, because I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. To you I’m so faithful one-hundred percent.


Yes, boys and girls, Dr. Seuss was born on March 2, 1904. After he attended Dartmouth College and Oxford University, he began a career in advertising. He published his first children's book, “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street,” in 1937.


However, it was his book, “The Cat in the Hat,” that really earned him a place in literary history 53 years ago. Dr. Seuss went on to publish 44 children's books, win the Pulitzer Prize in 1984, in addition to three Academy Awards, before his death in 1991.


And so it was, I say because, last Monday I celebrated his birthday early, you must know surely – with his 1940 classic “Horton Hatches the Egg.”


Please don’t complain as I attempt to explain.


The day began early for me as I found myself at William Winchester Elementary School in Westminster. I was among about a dozen local volunteers that day to help celebrate “Read Across America” day, which is celebrated every year in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday.


Also on Monday, Gov. Martin O’Malley read to first graders from Germantown Elementary at Annapolis Public Library and proclaimed the month of March “Read Across Maryland” month.


To kick-off the month-long emphasis on reading, “Maryland’s public school students will be treated to readings by community leaders, elected officials, published authors and educators to celebrate … what would have been Dr. Seuss’ 107th birthday,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.


“For the second year, we are declaring March as ‘Read Across Maryland Month’ to encourage our children to read and learn not just this month, but all year long,” the governor was quoted in the release.


“Working together with educators, our public libraries, and families across Maryland, we can instill a thirst for knowledge in our children that will help them achieve their dreams…


“This year, the program has expanded to include a partnership with the Maryland Library Association, with a theme of ‘30 for 30,’ a challenge to parents, teachers, and students to read 30 minutes every day for 30 days for the month of March.”


Last Monday, I was assigned to Ms. Susan Rolla’s first-grade class in room number three. If I am not mistaken, it was my homeroom for a year when I went to school there in the early 1960s.


Those reading this column will be happy to note that the children helped me with the big words as I read “Horton Hatches the Egg.”


Dr. Seuss published the tale in 1940 and it has all sorts of worldly advice for the reader that's good for a lifetime – and for today – far beyond the fascinating story, fun illustrations and amusing rhymes.


The next chance you get, rummage around your bookshelves at home and re-read some of his books with an adult perspective.


Or, you may watch the “Merrie Melodies” Warner Brothers’ April 11, 1942, cartoon version of “Horton” here:


If you will recall, Dr. Seuss explains a valuable lesson in the form of a story about Horton, a friendly elephant who takes over the task of sitting on the egg of a lazy, tired, and bored bird named Mayzie:


“Now once in a jungle, or so the tale goes, there lived a strange bird that most everyone knows. Her name it was Mayzie. She was mean as could be, and never seemed happy while up in her tree. Sighed Mayzie, this lazy bird hatching her egg...


Mayzie: I'm tired and I'm bored and I've kinks in my leg from sitting, just sitting here day after day. It's work, how I hate it. I'd much rather play. If I could find someone, I'd fly away free.”


When Horton takes over the task of sitting on the egg he is not aware that Mayzie has no intentions of coming back. She takes off for Palm Springs for a permanent vacation:


Mayzie: I'll hurry right back. Why, I'll never be missed.


Horton: Very well, since you insist. I'll stay and be faithful, I mean what I say.


Mayzie: Toodle-oo, said Mayzie, and fluttered away.”


So, Horton was left holding the bag. He waits and waits, never leaving his precarious perch. Horton suffers through the cold and hardships of a freezing winter.


In the spring he endured the insults of so-called friends: “They taunted. They teased him. They yelled ‘How Absurd! Old Horton the Elephant thinks he's a bird!’”


However, Horton was patient. He made a promise that he would sit on the egg and he is determined to keep his promise: “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful one-hundred percent.”


Horton is then captured by hunters, suffers a horrible sea journey, and is finally sold to a traveling circus, which just so happens to trek to Palm Springs, where Mayzie finds him again.


Fifty-one weeks after Horton agreed to help Mayzie and just as the egg begins to hatch, Mayzie pitches a fit and claims the egg.


However, when the egg hatches, a little baby emerges that looks like Horton. Horton and the baby return to the jungle.


“And it should be, it should be, it SHOULD be like that! Because Horton was faithful! He sat and he sat! He meant what he said. And he said what he meant.... And they sent him home. Happy, one hundred per cent!”


Think about it.


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at


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