What’s does this ending say?
Good question. There you are reading the poem to your child, getting into that rhyming groove, when the poem suddenly ends with a confused guy asking a youngling to solve a word jumble, and the youngling walks away saying he’ll do it tomorrow. But the ending doesn’t change no matter how many tomorrows come and go. What’s going on here?
We’ve scrounged up a few possibilities, so we’ll have to break this one down into two parts: first the word jumble, and then youngling’s response.
You can think of the word jumble as the test that comes at the end of the semester. Professor Seuss has spent the time teaching your child all these lovely new words, how they rhyme, and how they relate to one another. And now she is approached by this intimidating word jumble. Quiz time: what does she do?
It looks like four gigantic words at first, larger than anything she’s seen yet besides “Constantinople” (61.1). But then she looks at it again and begins to break it down, picking out the individual words one by one. After a little practice, she can expertly find the words see, he, me, we in “seehemewe” and he, three, tree, and bee from “hethreetreebee” (63.1&3). In other words—pun intended—language skills acquired.
But then why does that youngling say, “Ask me tomorrow / but not today” (64.1-2)? Why doesn’t he solve it or at least provide us with some back-of-the-book answers?
While we could chalk it up to procrastination, we’re going to assume something more is happening here. Namely, it’s a sly way of telling children that tomorrow’s another day to try that word jumble.
Language acquisition is hard, and we impatient adults tend to forget how hard it was for us to learn to read and write because we’ve been doing—with admittedly varying levels of success—for years. If you’re child just isn’t getting the words down, hey, no rush. Just ask again tomorrow and the day after and that day after that if you have to. Eventually, the word jumble will unjumble, and Professor Seuss will give you passing marks.