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Way back when Theodore Seuss Geisel wrote a zany rhyming book for children, I wonder if he realized that he’d be so successful with the series that future authors would attempt to imitate him.
I mean, imagine imitating green eggs and ham. Or a cat in a hat. Or a fox in socks. It’s kind of ridiculous, wouldn’t you say? Still, for years, wannabe Dr. Seusses congregated in coffee houses, libraries and living rooms trying to mimic the flavor of the venerable Dr. Seuss.
It may have been fun for them to do so, but seriously? What were they thinking? I mean, they failed miserably, because it’s impossible to recreate Thing One and Thing Two.
Me, I read (and wrote!) lots of copy cat pseudo-Seuss-style rhyming books or stories or poems. And I hated them all. I tore up my own and abhorred most others.
I resented people trying to copy the uncopyable. I was highly protective of Dr. Seuss and every perfectly invented word that he stood for.
But then the other day, something shifted in me, and suddenly I accepted the unacceptable. I read “Imagine If…” by Rabbi Zeegel and illustrated by Darrel Mordecai (Artscroll’s Mesorah Publications, May 2014). And dare I say? The book is comparable in style to the venerable Mr. Geisel.
That-is, with its very own individual flavor. This is the real thing. No imitation, and no copy of someone else’s voice. Yes, it’s true, I tell you.
As soon as I read the first line of the first page, I was smiling to myself.
Because the voice was friendly, warm, unique and real at the same time.
Since this book is for a Jewish audience (although non-Jewish kids and adults would enjoy it too..), the author has a decidedly Jewish pen-name, Rabbi Zeegel. The characters in the book are called Hebrew and Biblical names such as Moshe, Meir and Miri along with more American names as Mike and Sue.
And objects such as the shofar and lulav from the Jewish Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Sukkot, are mentioned, along with other Jewish concepts.
In “Imagine If…”, the author takes the reader on a journey with some “take-a-look eyes” to imagine what the world would be like if the world was just…well, different from the way we know it to be.
And then, he lists all the ways that things would be different in this world. From the pet cat that barked to the cow that went naaay. From the non-setting sun to the six-humped camels.
And the pictures? They are so detailed and wonderful that you just want to sit and study them, before turning the page….each drawing matches the words in the most literal way, enhancing the experience for the child.
Rabbi Zeegel, through his invented words, and funny rhyming phrases, imparts the theme to kids that everything in this world is just as it should be. That the new and imaginative way is just silly and impractical, albeit fun and exciting. Every person, place or thing does just what it is supposed to be doing, as planned by G-d.
He drives home the message that the way G-d has created our world is perfect, and we don’t need to have things as are pictured in our imagination.
Which begs the question that I’ve asked myself: Why put us, the reader through all the turmoil of the imagination, only to tell us, “Get real. It’s not like that…it’s much better the way things are…?”
I thought long and hard about this, and then I realized: Isn’t that what we all do in our lives? We imagine and concoct. We dream and we fantasize. Each and every one of us, child, teenager, adult, middle-ager and senior…has a vivid imagination and the potential for many questions.
And the book acknowledges all that. Anyone will love this clever book whose premise is to stretch the imagination of a child (or adult) and then to bring him back to reality, to the here and now.
Because at the end of the day, we know that we will return to the present moment, which may not be as interesting as our imagination, but it’s better for us in the long run.
And that’s the experience of “Imagine If…” For children and for adults, for kids, moms, grandmas and bubbies…and even those grandpas and zeidy’s….come and imagine what the world would be like in the land of the “one-legged-furfect.” Gosh! That would not be so perfectly perfect, would it?
I guess I don’t know. Just go ask your Aunt Sue!
Please note that this blogger has not received any monetary compensation for writing this review. However, she did receive a free copy of the book.
Tags: Artscroll Mesorah Publications, Darrel Mordecai, Dr. Seuss, G-d's plan, grandchildren, grandmothers, Imagine If..., Jewish picture book, Lulav, Rabbi Zeegel, Rosh Hashana, Shofar, Sukkot, Theodore Seuss Geisel, writer voice