Hop on Pop
How It All Goes Down
Dr. Seuss not only wrote Hop on Pop, but he illustrated it, too. No surprise there, right? Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated all of the books under the pen name Dr. Seuss and chose Theo LeSeig as his handle for most of the books he wrote but did not illustrate. All right, fine, but stick with us, Shmooper dearest. We still might surprise you here.
The illustrations in Hop on Pop are part of what we’d call his “bridge era drawings.” What we mean is that the style of these drawings bridges the gap between early-era Seuss and his later career styles. In early Seuss, you’ll notice a lot of black and whites with a few primary colors—reds, blues and yellows—filling things in (If I Ran the Zoo is a perfect example). In later era Seuss, the color palette widens considerably with every color in the crayon box being given its moment in the spotlight.
Hop on Pop lands in the middle of the extremes. The hues are more varied throughout the book, but Seuss generally sticks to one or two main colors per page. Reds, blues, and yellows are still dominate, but browns, pinks, oranges, and greens get their share of love (check out the pictures accompanying stanzas 33-36 to see what we mean)
The rest is that Seuss style you know and love. The characters are outlined in black ink with rounded, furry features that make them appear soft and cuddly. Even the tree fish give off a fuzzy vibe (17.1-3). Motion lines are used to give many of the pictures a sense of animation despite their static nature, such as the dive-bombing bees (16.1-5).
Like many of his other “bridge era drawing” books, the backgrounds are super simple. Occasionally you’ll get a small grassy knoll or tree. In one case of excess, Seuss incorporates a grassy knoll, tree, and some houses into the same background. Mostly though, the backgrounds are simple squares or other shapes filled in with a single color. It helps the characters stand out. With that said, the illustrations don’t dominate the page like they do in other Seuss books, but that might be due to the unique “Writing Style” Seuss was developing for Hop on Pop.
Why So Simple?
The simple nature of the illustrations helps promote the simple nature of the poem’s words. Seuss doesn’t need extravagant backgrounds to help the children visualize “Cup on pup” (3.3). If anything, a three-ring circus of background craziness would only distract from the simple message of trying to show young children how words can combine differently to create different images.
The soft, cuddliness of the characters also helps here. The words are meant to be non-intimidating to the novice reader. In the same way, Seuss’s character drawings are as cartoon-friendly as they come. Imagine a realistic drawing of a bear entering a camper’s tent. Yikes. Just thinking about it gives us a “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!” moment. But that cartoony teddy bear of a beast in the illustrations? That thing’s cute. And if young readers aren’t scared to death for the camper, they’ll probably be more open to using the illustration to learn how the rhyming words relate to one another.
Without the illustrations, this story would actually lack in educational value. Oh sure, children would probably still learn the words, but it wouldn’t be as effective a teaching tool. For example, the illustrations accompanying stanza 6 shows us what “[w]e all are tall” looks like. Fair enough. But then stanza 7 comes with a picture showing what a “[w]e all are small” looks like. There’s a two-letter difference between the sentences but a huge difference in the meaning of the words. And the image helps us understand that key distinction. The illustrations illustrate this point with fun and a soft-hand, meaning this book's child readers will learn a valuable lesson in language use without even realizing they’re learning it.