‘The Lorax’: Relevant for students of all agesBy Chelo Banal-Formoso
Philippine Daily Inquirer
When my kids were young, we read Dr. Seuss books a lot. We? I know, the Seuss books are in the children’s section at National Book Store but I love Dr. Seuss so, yes, we.
One of our favorites was “The Lorax,” a story quite ahead of its time for talking about the ill effects of industrialization and consumerism on the planet and its inhabitants.
All right, I’m sorry, no such big words appeared in the story. Here, better hear it straight from the title character:
“I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees, which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please. But I also speak for the brown Bar-ba-loots, who frolicked and played in their Bar-ba-loot suits, happily eating trufulla fruits. Now, thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground, there’s not enough trufulla fruit to go ’round!”
“You’re making such smogulous smoke—my poor swomee swans, why they can’t sing a note! No one can sing who has smog in his throat.”
“Your machinery chugs on, day and night without stop, making gluppity-glupp, and also schloppity-schlopp! And what do you do with this left-over goo? … You’re glumping the pond where the humming fish hummed! No more can they hum, for their gills are all gummed.”
“I speak for the trees! Let them grow! Let them grow! But nobody listens too much, don’t you know? They say I’m old-fashioned, and live in the past, but sometimes I think progress progresses too fast!”
So, there, those are the problems in “The Lorax,” the root cause of which can be summed up in the five letters you can stick on the foreheads of loggers and the government officials who abet them: G-R-E-E-D.
“The Lorax” is a skinny book (72 pages) that first came out in 1971. Whimsically written and illustrated by Ted Geisel—a.k.a. Dr. Seuss—the book has sold more than 1.6 million copies so far, with sales doubling every year since 2003, according to the latest figures.
Some pages are beautifully illustrated, showing truffula trees that are swirls of orange, yellow, pink and lilac—delicious as cotton candy.
Just like Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Horton Hears a Who,” there is a universal message in “The Lorax” that must be taken to heart.
Reading these books is like eating good soup. You think you want something light and easy, but you end up getting something wonderfully warm and filling.
Given the tragic floodings and landslides that have been happening in our country, “The Lorax” will make for a relevant class lesson for Filipino students from pre-K to high school. Oh heck, throw in college.
The story can be used to teach about the importance of trees, about the threats to their existence and to God’s other creatures, and about the hope for a better tomorrow contained in one little seed.
Throughout the story, the Lorax, a most unphotogenic peanut-like creature with a blond mustache, keeps pleading with the Once-ler to curb the pollution—to no avail.
Seuss keeps the identity of the Once-ler a secret, showing only his green arms and legs in the book. Just perfect! This is the character for whom students can substitute the face of anyone who is responsible for environmental abuse—the town mayor, the timber cutter, the factory owner who spills gunk into the river, absolutely anyone they deem an eco-villain.
“The Lorax” is such a wonderful tool for teaching about the environment even its 3-D CG animated movie version has spun off activities designed for students of all ages.
I usually have reservations about the cinematic productions of well-loved children’s books. “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” for instance, was such an amazing visual feast on the screen it left nothing for the imagination and was so unrecognizable from the book. The movie versions of “Cat in the Hat” (with Mike Myers) and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (with Jim Carrey) were equally disappointing.
But so far the “The Lorax” trailers I have seen seem to be respectful of the Seuss spirit. Produced by the same company that gave us “Despicable Me”—which my family loved—the movie has Danny DeVito voicing the iconic Lorax and Zac Efron as the boy Ted who goes out looking for a real tree for the girl Audrey, voiced by pop star Taylor Swift.
Cheers to Solar Entertainment Corp., the film’s Philippine distributor, for taking extra effort toward mobilizing the students to advocate for Mother Nature through contests, campus visits and other activities.
Because what the Lorax says is true. “Unless someone (like each of us and our kids) cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax,” the book, is available at all National Book Stores, Powerbooks and Bestsellers. The movie opens March 14 at digital 3-D and selected 2-D theaters nationwide and at IMAX 3-D.