Let’s Talk McElligot’s Pool from Dr Seuss

Originally published in 1947 and featuring the same child named Marco who also appears in And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street. Who knew there was a shared Seuss world, a Seuss-iverse? This is one of the six books that the publisher just pulled.

I not only never read this book before but also never heard of it before last week. Some of the other Seuss books I at least heard of or had some memory of seeing it in a library or book store. Not this one at all. The cover is very simple, just the line, bobber, worm, and fish. If I had seen it before I probably would have guessed it was some story about wasting hours standing with a rod in hand waiting for a bite.

Instead this is a great enjoyable read that I would have loved as a kid. My brother, known for wasting hours fishing, would also have liked it. Marco is trying to fish in this little puddle on the farm. What a fool. But Marco counters that no one knows for sure that the bottom of the pool doesn’t connect to an underground stream. From there it could connect to a river, lakes, and even the ocean. From there fish of all kinds from around the world (and some of them look like they come from beyond) would hear about this tasty worm just waiting for the eating all the way over at the legendary McElligot’s pool.

Classic Seuss art on every page and, this will come back later, some are better than others. The color pages have not only a water color inspired look but also somewhat psychedelic. There’s a flow and fluidity that’s perfect for conveying the motion of waves on the printed page.

So what’s wrong with it? On one two page spread Marco talks about Eskimo fish. Swimming all the way down to the pool from beyond the Hudson Bay. The term Eskimo is controversial and you can find arguments on both sides. There isn’t another word that can be used to encompass all of the circumpolar people. However it is believed that the origin of the term is “eaters of raw meat”. Canada now uses the term Inuit and the United States has gone with “Alaska Native”.

I have to guess pulling this book is getting ahead of any possible controversies. If you’re pulling five books, why not do six? While reading the book it’s just a cute drawing of some fish wearing warm jackets. But I am not an Inuit and have never experienced any feelings either way over the word Eskimo. I can’t speak for any of them in relation to this word or pulling the book. However, the two pages in question are not necessary for the overall story. Even at the end of the book, when all of the fish gather near the hook – there’s no Eskimo fish. If the pages were missing from the book I have in hand, I would have never noticed. The book would read the same way.

If my son had any interest in this book at all I would probably read it as is and say, we don’t use that word any more then move on. We’re currently reading the Trumpet Swan for his school and the book is 50 years old. I told him we don’t say Indian any more. I explained what the words gay and queer mean within the context of the novel. He says okay and we keep going.

Honestly, I’m debating getting a copy of this book when the market dies down for my own collection. It was a fun story and I’m planning on reading it to my son just after the Swan book is done and he stops obsessing over fellow Seuss book, Wacky Wednesday.

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