Oh, the Places You'll Go!
by Dr. Seuss
The Most Important Character is You
Well, by you, we mean your child. You know how we know this? The opening lines say, "Today is your day." YOUR. You.
That means this is your child's story, from the very beginning, on through to the end.
Brains in Your Head and Feet in Your Shoes
When the story begins, your kid is just like you'd hope they'd be before setting off into the world: full of enthusiasm and optimism.
This is it! The big adventure you've all been waiting for.
Your child is smart ("you have brains in your head") and isn't afraid of walking ("you have feet in your shoes") (2). They have no flaws, or at least none that we can see so far. They don't know what they want or where they're headed, but they know they want something and they're willing to go out and get it.
This chunky stew of confident goodness is at first enough to carry your child right past the first scary monsters, making it easier for them to say, '"I don't choose to go there'" (3) when they're presented with a less than favorable option.
It also colors their worldview in such a way that those open spaces look warm and inviting and full of friendly purple elephants. With such hope and joy, is it any wonder your child is soon flying to the highest heights?
We counter with another question:
Is It Any Wonder When the Fall Is So Dramatic?
Yes, your child's first encounter with the "prickle-ly perch" isn't as minor of a setback as it perhaps might have been had your child stuck to the ground. But you taught them to fly, right? So what's the use staying ground-level?
And so, we enter the opposite extreme. There's no soaring. There's only slumping, and we all know how hard slumps can be to get out of.
And when you're in a slump,
you're not in for much fun.
is not easily done. (14, 15)
Your child's psyche is clouded with doubt and fear, to the point of paralysis in the Waiting Place. They can't even decide whether to turn "left or right…/ or right-and-three-quarters" (16).
This is a first for your child—being out there all alone, not just lacking in people who will guide them, but surrounded by people who could do with a little guidance, too. Someone needs to let these people know it's best not to watch a pot boil!
And it's scary here, too. Just look at how the pictures darken, how small your child is as they walk down that long road. We're shivering, even if you aren't!
But then, just like that, your child somehow gets out of that place and rediscovers hope and joy.
Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing. (21)
Dr. Seuss moves quickly past this point, but we here at Shmoop have a claim to make: we think "somehow" is the very crux of this story. It's at the heart of your child's struggles and joys. Is there anything more frustrating than having someone tell you "somehow things will work out" when you're caught in the swirl? Knowing how things will work out is what would really help. Find us that map! But there is no map, and there would be no joy if there was one.
And so, your child is learning already as they embrace that "somehow" and dance past boom bands, which apparently is the correct prerequisite for an awesome job kicking a ball for money and fame and riding high with "banner flip-flapping" (22).
It's such a relief, isn't it? And at this point your child has probably even convinced him or herself that, having achieved such great things and surpassed the "lurch," they will never experience the slump again.
Growth Means Continuing to Row
But of course, they do. And it's just as scary as before, if not more, because the height is even greater.
Still, "on you will go though the weather be foul" (28) right past the Hakken-Kraks and that fuzzy green monster, that really seems sweet beneath it all. Your child understands that life's not all ups or all downs; it's both, and they have to keep on walking, no matter which stage they're in.
That, it seems, is how mountains get moved. And your kid, they'll move mountains, now that they've changed and grown. They just have to get on their way.