You have to love the cover of Happy Birthday to You! by Dr. Seuss: a large, friendly-looking bird flies through the sky, holding aloft a birthday cake with dripping candles. Â It’s a cover that promises fun, Dr. Seuss’s marvelous brand of fantasy, and deliciousness galore.
And the book delivers on all counts.
The story is a wonderfully colorful account of how they celebrate birthdays in the land of Katroo. Â As you’d expect from a book by Dr. Seuss, it’s a little different from what we do here. Â In Katroo, you are awakened in the morning by the Great Birthday Bird, who flies in through the window and greets you with the “Secret Katroo Birthday Hi-Sign and Shake/That only good people with birthdays may make.” Â From there, the bird leads you on all kinds of fantastic adventures. Â You climb to a high peak and shout, “I am I!” Â You eat hot dogs rolled on a spool. Â You wash off the mustard in the Mustard-Off Pools, which are fabulous terraced pools built on a hillside (as a kid, I wanted desperately to be the little boy in the picture, swan-diving joyfully from one pool to the next). Â You are serenaded by Drummers, Strummers, and Zummers, as well as by Dr. Derring’s Singing Herrings. Â And at the end of the happy, wonderful day, the bird flies you home on a very soft platter, putting you gently into your bed, where you dream about the day you’ve just had.
It’s quite the celebration.
This book is a part of our collection thanks to our good friend Trish, who gave it to us as a gift last year. Â In her family, they’ve made a tradition out of reading it aloud on each child’s birthday, and I can’t think of a more appropriate way to end the day. Â More than any other kid’s book I know, this book teaches the importance of celebrating the people in your life Â … and that’s a message that you just can’t hear enough, at any age.
In fact, the older I get, the more I realize that these kinds of celebrations should be a priority for me. Life is short. Â Time passes. Â The people we care about won’t always be here. Â (As we edge closer to the anniverary of 9/11, that’s a message that hits home in a particularly sober way.)
Admittedly, it’s an effort to throw a party. Â It is often tough to get folks together, to clean the house and buy the drinks and hunt down the birthday candles, but there is no better investment, really, than a few hours in the company of the people we love. Â When you come right down to it, the best gifts we have in life are our friends and family. Â Sometimes, it’s easy for an introvert like me to forget that, or to default to time alone rather than in the company of others. Â But I like this book because it’s a glorious, exuberant, vibrant hymn to the joy of celebrations. Â It’s a reminder that the people we love deserve the hot dogs and the singing herrings and the mustard-off pools, or the closest approximation that we can give them outside of Katroo. Â At the very least, they deserve to know that they matter to us, Â that they are a unique splash of color on the canvas of our lives … and that the picture would be a lot less exciting without them.
What the Birthday Bird
Does in Katroo.
And I wish
I could do
All these great things for you!Â