When my daughter was about two years old, she hit that phase in which toddlers need to experience the same thing over and over -- you know, watch the save video three times per day, hear the same song a thousand times per day, or in this case, hear the same story three or four times per day. The story she fixated on was Hop on Pop.
About the time I was finishing up my MA coursework, then, I read Hop on Pop aloud three or four times every day. I had it memorized well enough that I could recite it to her on long car trips to keep her entertained. In those circumstances, it is almost impossible for the larval English professor to avoid deconstruction, so deconstruct I did. And what I found gave me the creeps.
First off, the phrase "Hop on Pop" struck me as having a potential pedophilic implication. Fortunately, the picture in the book shows something a lot less creepy -- two kids jumping on their fat father's stomach like a trampoline.* The behavior of the children is expressly forbidden, though, when after they proclaim "We like to hop. We like to hop on top of pop," a mother-figure pokes her head in the frame and commands them: "Stop! You must not hop on Pop." If it had stopped there, I probably would have thought nothing of it.
But let us consider the case of Mr. Brown, who is having an affair, cheating on his wife with Mr. Black. You doubt me? Look into the book, and you will find the caption "Mr. Brown, Mrs. Brown," with a picture of the couple. Both are smiling, but they are showing no physical intimacy at all. They are not even touching. Why not? Well, in the facing page, we see "Mr. Brown, Upside-Down," and a picture of Mr. Brown standing on his head. Something isn't right with Mr. Brown. Something about him is quite upside-down.
Later (after he has been catapulted through the sky by a puppy on a seesaw), Mr. Brown has a little sexual adventure. We first read the question: "Where is Brown? There is Brown! Mr. Brown is out of town." So far, so good. Then we read "Back, Black, Brown came back. Brown came back with Mr. Black." This time, Brown and Black are pictured holding hands, in a pose of intimacy denied Mrs. Brown. In fact, Mrs. Brown seems banished from the book, as later on Mr. Brown and Mr. Black have a picnic, and she's not invited.
So, first, we have the example of the children's inappropriate behavior with their father, then we have Mr. Brown who, on a trip out of town meets and becomes intimate with Mr. Black, returns home with him and seems to displace his wife altogether. Tsk, tsk.
I'm not sure what to make of the rest of it. There is the puppy that gets into bizarre situations, such as being in a giant cup, perhaps a racist slight against cultures that consider dog a form of sustinance. There is the unidentifiable "Thing," that, regardless of its other shortcomings, can sing, but eventually sings too long (a prescient critique of American Idol, perhaps?). Also, the father who is being hopped upon is chronically depressed, as we learn when we read "Dad is sad. Very, very sad. He had a bad day. What a day Dad had."
Yes, I learned that Dr. Seuss needs to be approached with caution. And don't even get me started on Fox in Sox, with its critique of high fashion and its belligerent Tweedle Beetles. No, definitely not for children.
*I am going mostly from memory here, so my apologies if I get a quote or two wrong.