By Dom Cioffi
As a young child, I reveled in picture books. It wasn’t that I loved to read so much as I loved looking at the illustrations. This is probably why, when I grew out of the picture book phase, my love for reading diminished considerably. It wasn’t until college that this quiet exercise was rekindled.
During my picture book phase, I had several favorites that undoubtedly align with others around my age. I loved both the Curious George series and the Richard Scarry books for their alluring simplicity and sense of kindness. But my all-time favorite (like so many others) were the mischievous stories of Theodor Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss.
The Dr. Seuss books captivated me with their funky characters and bizarre environments. My mother would read me the poetic verses over and over again while I stared at the pictures, unaware of the subtle lessons being taught.
But of all the Dr. Seuss titles (of which I had many), one stood out above all others: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” This holiday classic was so good in my mind that I read it throughout the year (much to the chagrin of my mother).
Eventually, time moved me away from the good doctor’s stories. I grew up and found other favorite things that captivated my attention. However, that one book never left my sight. When I finally moved out of the house after college, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” came with me.
For years I kept it in a cardboard box along with other childhood mementos, only taking it out for a quick peruse when I happened to be rummaging around for something else and it caught my eye.
When I got my first house and started putting up my own tree and decorations, I would dig the book out and lay it on our coffee table for visitors to glance at.
After my son was born and we were celebrating our first Christmas with him, I decided that I needed to update my copy. I’m not sure if my original book has any value, but it is quite old and has to be considered one the earlier publications. Because of this (and along with my son’s propensity to drool and tear things), I figured it was worth buying him his own copy.
On his first Christmas Eve I grabbed my son and placed him in my lap. I then proceeded to read him the story, verse by verse, in a slow and calculated fashion so his ears would notice the rhyming pattern.
I also changed my voice depending on whether the narrator or the Grinch was talking. The narrator’s voice was not unlike my own, but the Grinch’s was a deep, gravely sound that suggested an ominous character.
Each year on Christmas Eve I would bring the book out and read it to my son before bedtime. This became a tradition for the two of us and it has progressed to this day, even though my son is now a 14-year-old teenager who has little patience for anything that isn’t a sports car or a weapon.
But you know what? He still loves it and looks forward to it. And I can understand why. It’s a way to slip into the past and briefly remember the awe and majesty of a childhood Christmas.
And the fact is, I still like reading the book. The older I get, the more I realize how brilliant the writing is. Not only did it capture a unique story – wholly unlike anything before or since – but it did it with the poetic structure of a masterpiece. The words roll off the tongue with such a delightful cadence that it’s hard not to be swept up in the moment of reading them.
Obviously, I am not the only one whose had these thoughts since the story has spawned a franchise of movies and merchandise in its wake.
This week I checked out the newest incarnation of the Grinch with the release of a major 3D animated interpretation of the beloved tale.
The story has changed very little with this film: the Grinch is irritated by everything, especially Christmas. So when the Whos down in Whoville start celebrating the season early, he decides to take matters into his own green hands.
This is a visually stunning piece of animation that adds a level of artistry to the characters and scenery that is highly enjoyable.
Unfortunately, this film did little to enhance the legacy of Dr. Seuss’ masterpiece. It’s fun for bit, but then the story flattens out, causing a distracting loss of momentum.
Check this one out if you have little ones in tow. You’ll at least revel in their wide, adoring eyes.
A gangly “C” for “The Grinch.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.