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Welcome to the Horn Book's Family Reading blog, a place devoted to offering children's book recommendations and advice about the whats and whens and whos and hows of sharing books in the home. Find us on Twitter @HornBook and on Facebook at

The Cat in the Hat on a Bus with Us

On the bwhat-do-you-say-dearus home yesterday, a young father and toddler son sat down next to me, and the dad asked the boy if he wanted to read a book. I’ve seen these two before, always reading; in fact, a few weeks ago I handed Dad a Horn Book, suggesting it as a source for finding out about good new books. This time, Dad pulled out four or five books and asked the boy to make a choice, telling me that his own favorite among them was Joslin and Sendak’s What Do You Say, Dear? (The guy clearly has taste.) But the boy chose instead a Clifford book where Emily’s class is walking down the street and after many, many safety lessons, Clifford—spoiler alert—stands in for a missing stop sign. Dad read the whole thing aloud and I have to say it wasn’t exactly gripping.

seuss-cat-hatThen they moved on to The Cat in the Hat. It was one of those damned gift-sized editions, shrinking everything but I guess useful for on the go emergencies (like when there’s no stop sign, say, so you sit and read and wait for Clifford) and when you want to be able to carry more than a few books, a situation with which I completely empathize. Clearly this was a favorite, because Dad regularly left completion of the rhyme to his son, who responded accurately each time. I don’t know what possessed me (maybe thing1-and-thing2Things One and Two, the creepy little fuckers), but I squinted and started reading along aloud. Dad smiled and dropped out; Son looked at me with total shock, eyes wide and mouth open, and, when I came to “then those Things ran about / with big bumps, jumps and kicks / and with hops and big thumps and all kinds of bad . . . ” he hesitated, then broke out in a smile and finished it: “tricks!”

Who knows what Junior was actually thinking, but it made me wonder what it’s like when a child realizes a book is a transferable object. That a complete stranger can look at it and do exactly the same thing your dad does. It’s not just Dad’s magic, it can be anyone’s, someday it will be yours.

For more of Roger’s adventures with children on the bus, click here.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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