Horton Hears a Who! (Classic Seuss)
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2001
I bought this book for my six year-old this past Christmas. She has recently fallen in love with Dr. Seuss books, and poetry in general. And this book, along with other Seuss books, gives her great joy. We read it together, out loud, enjoying the scan and ryhme of the words and sentences. And on that level, it's one of her favorites.
But after we read it, we talk about the concepts behind it, how "a person's a person, no matter how small", and how Horton realizes the inherent dignity in all life, regardless of whether or not it fits into our commonly held conceptions. This book allows me to open up discussions on race, and religion, and the external aspects of persons, and how often we judge people (sometimes unfairly) based on how they look, rather than on their actions.
I highly recommend this book for any schoolchild and parent to read together, reveling in the language and fun, and then use as a stepping stone to further discussions about life and personhood.
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62 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 1999
Horton Hears A Who was about much much more than Horton's predicament. Written in the early 1950's, this story reflected a new way of thinking for Dr. Seuss as an individual, and ran contrary to the grain of much of the sentiment in the United States at the time.
During the early 1950's the results of the Marshall Plan were still unclear, and Americans, who had just fought a fierce war with Japan and Germany in the decade before, were debating whether or not to continue with our aid, protection and reconstruction programs. The programs were designed to give our defeated foes a chance to rebuild. They were a brave new experiment. An effort to avoid punishing the populous for its bad leadership. Also, for the first time in history, and effort to love your enemy, in the hopes of making them your friend forever.
Many Americans viewed the Germans and Japanese with disdain. They were calling for an end to aid for a variety of reasons, most of which are touched upon in the book.
Despite his racially charged characterizations of the Japanese *during* the war, Dr. Seuss was coming to terms with the fact that the general populations of Germany and Japan were additional victoms of the war - simply leftover pawns in a terrible game.
Seuss wrote this book in an effort to get the word out that, despite differences past and present, we should try to care about one another just the same.
You see:
"the Whos down in Whoville on top of that little speck are people,regardless of race,creed-or size!"
Dr. Seuss was compelled by the helplessness of these devestated nations, and was issuing an appeal for everyone to start looking at nations as a collection of real people, rather than as a monolithic "other".
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2005
I am blessed to own many beautiful books for kids but if I had to get rid of all but one, this is the book I would keep. Its message: "A person's a person no matter how small" is everything you really need to teach the children in your life. I have shared it with four years olds, 12 year olds and adults. It's incredible.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Horton may not be the 67th book of the Bible but it should be. This is a classic story of self- sacrifice and the value of each person. This book instills self esteem in children and fosters caring and concern for others. On top of that, it's just plain fun to read. "Because after all, a person is a person no matter how small."
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 1998
I suspect that even people who don't know a word of English might enjoy Dr. Seuss's galloping rhythms, precise rhymes, and intricate illustrations of creatures and objects that couldn't possibly exist outside the wonderful, whimsical Seussian universe. But in Horton Hears a Who, the good doctor uses his inimitable talents not only to amuse but to weave a morality tale of surprising profundity. Although Horton is the largest creature in the Jungle of Nool, he alone is sensitive to the needs of the very smallest and most helpless. "A person's a person no matter how small" is a refrain that has rung true with several generations of young readers, and it is a credo that is no less valid today than it was half a century ago. Although Horton is referring to the tiny inhabitants of Whoville, young readers know intuitively that the author is really speaking about them. That children both need and deserve the respect and protection of their elders is a point that is all too rarely made in children's literature. Come to think of it, don't all of need to be reassured once in a while that compassionate spirits like Horton can be counted upon to come forward in times of crisis to protect us from the likes of the gleefully ignorant Wickersham Brothers and the mean-spirited Vlad Vlad-i-koff?
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Horton Hears A Who! is probably my very favorite book by Dr. Seuss. Many reviewers point out that this is one book by Dr. Seuss that can be read and interpreted on more than one level--and that's quite grand. Children are encouraged to think philosophically about life and people who are not as well off as they may be. For younger children, though, this book still remains an interesting read on a more concrete, literal level; both groups of children are bound to benefit from reading this book. In addition, this book will also introduce vocabulary to young children and help them perfect their reading skills. Great!

The action starts when a rather kind and sensitive elephant named Horton is taking a bath in the jungle where he lives. Soon he hears a faint sound and he discovers the sound comes from a tiny group of people living on nothing much wider than a dust puff or (at most) a clover. They tell Horton that they need his help to protect themselves. When the kangaroo and the other creatures of the jungle find out that Horton thinks he's communicating with a dust puff, they ridicule him and refuse to even consider the possibility that Horton could be right. They eventually enlist the eagle to get rid of the dust puff.

Of course, from here the plot could go anywhere. Will Horton find the dust puff and be able to help the people of this tiny civilization get a better quality of life for themselves? Will the eagle throw the dust puff so far away that Horton can never find it again? Read the book and find out!

The illustrations are terrific and the prose is very well written with a lot of rhyming so typical of a Dr. Seuss book.

This book on a concrete level teaches children to read and increase their vocabulary while learning about kindness; older children can be introduced to the idea that some people are more equal than others and that social justice is very important in this world. This book can be read and re-read over and over again.

I highly recommend this book for children of various ages; they will learn much from this fine children's book.
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40 of 51 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon August 13, 2001
Like many of Dr. Seuss' great classics, "Horton Hears a Who!" can be read on multiple levels. You could approach it as a straightforward story (which is, I'm sure, how most children enjoy it). Or you could read the plot and characters as metaphors for larger issues. Either way, "Horton" is an unforgettable text.
"Horton" opens with the delightful rhyme "On the fifteenth of May, in the Jungle of Nool, / In the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool." Horton, a kind-hearted elephant, is the only inhabitant of the jungle who is capable of hearing the Whos, a microscopic race of beings whose entire civilization exists on a speck of dust. Mocked and abused by those who refuse to believe in the tiny Whos, Horton must ultimately join the Whos in a bold plan to prove the tiny beings' existence, and thus save their civilization from destruction.
Dr. Seuss brilliantly combines the classic animal fable genre with a brilliant science fiction twist. But I also see "Horton" as a deeply humanistic parable of social justice. The Whos could be seen as symbols for any group of individuals who have been rendered "invisible" and voiceless by an arrogant dominant group. So the Whos could represent the poor, the lesbian and gay community, ethnic or religious minorities, women, or other groups.
And Horton could be seen as a courageous, nonconformist prophet of social justice--a sort of Seussian version of Pablo Neruda, or Walt Whitman. Moreover, Horton is a member of the "dominant" group who chooses to identify with and stand in solidarity with a marginalized community, even at the risk of his own freedom. Furthermore, the hoped-for salvation of the Whos lies not in Horton's actions alone, nor in the Whos' own actions alone, but rather in the combined strength of both the entire Who community and their elephant advocate. I believe that Horton's quest reflects the ideas expressed by Brazilian educator-philosopher Paulo Freire in his classic volume "Pedagogy of the Oppressed."
I don't want to reveal the details of the book's ending, but I'll just say that Dr. Seuss brings this suspenseful tale to a triumphant and life-affirming conclusion. And the story is brilliantly enhanced by marvelous Seussian artwork--I especially liked the illustrations of the whimsical Whos and their Escheresque city. "Horton Hears a Who!" is a classic for readers of all ages.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2004
Like most of Dr. Seuss's work, Horton Hears A Who can be taken at face value or read as a deeper allegory. I would like to concentrate on the first, as I believe there has been enough philosophizing done on this book to last for years.

Horton is an elephant who happens to hear a tiny little voice (by merit of his large ears, one would suspect) on a flower. Amazingly, he discovers an entire tiny city lving on this one flower! Everyone else in the jungle of Nool is critical, and tries to dissuade him of this--first peacably enough, but later with more hostility. In the end, Horton and all his Who-friends are able to save the day with a lot of teamwork and one little voice added to the fray.

Of course, your child probably won't care about many of the underlying themes at age 4--if Dr. Seuss's books were only dry life lessons, they wouldn't be classics. Yet, at the risk of going against my earlier promise, there is more than a good story here, and that's what ultimately makes this book rereadable at any age.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2003
Regardless of ridicule, Horton stuck by his tiny friends he heard that could fit on a clover. He put up a horrible battle to save his friends and told them they needed to make themselves heard or they would be destroyed along with him, and he was doing everything in his power to protect them. "A person's a person, no matter how small", he kept saying as he went through each attempt of others to destroy him for his beliefs. Finally, it took one last "Who" from Whoville that was shirking that made the difference in being heard, that saved Horton and the village, just one more voice that was not speaking up, that when he was told to, and did,tipped the scales and saved the town and Horton. The animals that were going to destroy Horton for being "crazy", decided that from that day on they would be as loyal to the town of "Whoville" as Horton, and they realized that Horton was not crazy at all, but a very loyal and honest elephant who stuck by his beliefs, regardless of the awful things they had put him through for doubting him. Mrs. Symmington
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Researchers constantly find that reading to children is valuable in a variety of ways, not least of which are instilling a love of reading and improved reading skills. With better parent-child bonding from reading, your child will also be more emotionally secure and able to relate better to others. Intellectual performance will expand as well. Spending time together watching television fails as a substitute.
To help other parents apply this advice, as a parent of four I consulted an expert, our youngest child, and asked her to share with me her favorite books that were read to her as a young child. Horton Hears a Who! was one of her picks.
On the surface, this is a story about an elephant going the extra mile to respect those who are as different from him as they can possibly be.
"He was splashing . . . enjoying the jungle's great joys . . .
When Horton the elephant heard a small noise."
He notices a speck of dust, passing in the air. With his large ears, he can hear something coming from that dust. Quickly, he imagines that there is some sort of a creature of very small size on the dust.
No one else believes him, and he is taunted and tortured by the other animals . . . who cannot hear the small noise. They think Horton has gone mad! After tribulations that would daunt any decent, dedicated elephant, he must find a way to convince the other animals before they overwhelm him and destroy the dust (and the Whos along with it!).
He tells the tiny Whos to make as much noise as possible. But still the other animals cannot hear them. Finally, the mayor of the Whos finds a shirker who is playing with his yo-yo rather than making noise. As soon as the small Who makes his sound, all the animals can hear. Then the Whos are safe.
The metaphor here is that the strong must protect the weak, but the weak must also be as outspoken as possible if the strong are going to be able to help them. That can make for a wonderful discussion about bullies and pushy children in school.
Beyond that, I have always seen this book as Dr. Seuss's apology for his sometimes anti-Japanese cartoons (including an anti-Japanese-American version) during the early days of World War II when he was a political cartoonist (see Dr. Seuss Goes to War). Why do I think that? The book is dedicated as follows: "For My Great Friend, Mitsugi Nakamura of Kyoto, Japan". I read that as being dedicated to all those of Japanese ancestry as well. In this eloquent plea for common decency, Dr. Seuss rises to be a geat man.
Discuss with your child when and where these concepts might come into play. Younger siblings and cousins can provide a good starting point. Then you can go on to talk about the role of parents in helping their children. You'll have a wonderful chat, the first of many.
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