Now, before you run off somewhere thinking we've done all we can with this story, sit back down and take a look at those illustrations. Aren't they amazing? Well, you can thank a very talented man for them. For now, we'll call him Dr. Seuss.
That's right. The story's writer and the illustrator are the very same person. Because he's that rock n' roll.
And boy, what illustrations they are. These are colorful, whimsical, full-page watercolor masterpieces made just for us. Don't you feel special? We sure do.
Dr. Seuss and his illustrations are like Wayne and Garth or Will and Carlton once they overcame their differences or peanut butter once it starts hanging out with jelly: they're inseparable.
Just stop for a moment and think about what this story (or any Dr. Seuss story) would be without the illustrations. Not so great, right?
The illustrations don't just accompany this story; they are the story.
Need proof? Let's take a stroll through a few illustrative themes.
Check out the illustrations for stanzas 1-3. Your child isn't the biggest thing in the world, but they don't exactly look small as they head out of town. That forward tilt indicates motion and that puffed out chest means confidence. They look bigger than they are because they feel bigger than they are.
We feel this even as your child heads out into those wide open fields (4) and marches with those purple elephants (5, 6). In fact, in this scene your child is almost as tall as those elephants. Who needs to eat their spinach when you've got the power of confidence, right? And, lest it escape your attention, take a look at the smiles on those elephants, too. Seems like confidence is contagious after all.
But this size is not a constant. In fact, whenever your child is lost and confused, they look so small and vulnerable, it's hard not to reach right into the book and fight off the bad guys for them.
There are many examples of this, but the illustration for stanzas 26 and 27 ("All alone!") is one of the best. Look at how small your child looks standing there at the very beginning of that long, dark road. Everything is bigger than them, from the leafless, burnt trees to that gate that looks like gnarled fingernails to those leering blobby things.
The same goes for the Hakken-Kraks illustration, as well as the road to the Waiting Place.
When does your child look big again? Oh, only when they've learned their lesson and can pat the nose of a green monster and haul a mountain from one place to the other like they were born to schlep. We're telling you, confidence is the key.
There is only one other time when your child looks this small: when experiencing a moment of awe and wonder. Just look at stanza 7. Here, your child is but a speck in this great, wide, wondrous world of stripes. And we don't mind for an instant.
Just like size, the light and color palettes vary throughout the story along with your child's experience and psychological state.
Take a look at stanza 2 when we're still in the suburbs. It's a nice sunny day, complete with yellow, green and pink—nice and cheery, but nothing mind-blowing. As your child heads out into the fields (5) we add blue and purple to the palette. By the next two stanzas (6 & 7), we've got the same colors, but now we're seeing them used in an intricate canopy attached to the backs of elephants.
And then. Holy wow, Batman! In stanza 8 there are colors all over the place. We have reds and pinks now, too, and they're going every which way across all sorts of curves.
But of course, when your child snags on a tree (11-13) dark grey dominates the landscape, not to mention all of those harsh, scraggly lines. Next up, the Slump (12, 14) where we have nothing but black, blue and purple.
Repeat this pattern throughout the book, and you have a few dark colors when your child is struggling (see Hakken-Kraks, the road to the Waiting Place, walking through the Slump) and many light colors (see soaring in the balloon, Boom Bands, kicking that ball) when the world is at your child's feet.
See what we mean now? The illustrations convey both the emotional and physical experience of the story. There's no story without them.