On March 2, 2019, celebrations were being held for Dr. Seuss’s 115th birthday at the Burlington Public Library. For some reason, I was quite keen to go. D is always game for a trip to the library. As part of the celebrations was a treasure hunt for children. Ten pictures of characters from Dr. Seuss’s books had been pinned up around the library, and the children had to find these images and note down the names of the characters (which were not printed on the images, of course) and turn in their list for a prize. I asked D if he wanted to look for the images. He wasn’t interested. I went looking for them but gave up after spotting a few. I was completely clueless. The only Dr. Seuss characters I had known until that day were Fiffer-Feffer-Feff and Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz, both from Dr. Seuss’s ABC, a gorgeous board book for early learners of the alphabet.
So you know what happened next. When we reached home, I placed hold requests on a bunch of Dr. Seuss books. One of these was Fox in Socks.
My, oh my! I can’t even begin to talk (write) about thIs hilariously tongue-twisting series of rhyming verses without chuckling or at least smiling. It begins with two blue-socked hands holding a poster that reads “Take it SLOWLY. This Book is DANGEROUS!” We are then introduced to the main characters and props: Fox, Socks, Box, and Knox, a yellow anthropomorphic creature. Several permutations and combinations of these rhyming words lead to a number of incredibly funny verses and illustrations. Mr. Knox, as Mr. Fox addresses him, seems to enjoy the game at first but starts to grow exasperated as Fox introduces chicks, bricks, blocks, and clocks, followed by tricks, and ticks and tocks to complicate matters. Each time Mr Knox protests, Mr. Fox redirects him to new tongue-twisting tricks that are increasingly difficult to say aloud.
The first few times we read the book, D couldn’t stop laughing. The increasingly complex rhymes, that Mr. Knox refers to as “blibber blubber”, aren’t the only factor that create the comic effect. The thread of irrefutable logic that runs through each set of verses in the entire book renders it singularly brilliant. It is hard to explain this without quoting the verses but then that would spoil the fun of the book. So consider this. Think about ‘tweetle beetles’ using ‘paddles’ to ‘battle’ each other in a ‘puddle’ in a ‘bottle’ that sits atop a ‘poodle eating noodles’. Can you imagine several ingenious juxtapositions of these words that can make sense and sound like nonsense at the same time? That is the genius of Dr. Seuss.
At one point in the book, after Mr. Knox is exasperated with Fox’s talk of ‘Luke Luck and ‘Luke’s duck’ taking ‘licks’ in ‘lakes’ that they ‘like’, Fox chides him and says, “You don’t have to be so dumb now …”
This has become D’s go-to phrase every time he wants KrA (or, less often, me) to join him in something and we are unable to. He’d call out to us a couple of times and then would come the thundering proclamation, “Come now, Dada. You don’t have to be so dumb now, Dada.”
Through most of the book, Mr. Fox has fun at the expense of Mr. Knox. You’ll have to get through the ‘tweetle beetle battle’ bit to see whether Mr. Knox escapes this relentless assault to his wit and senses. The back endpaper has another poster held up by a pair of blue-socked hands (the Fox’s). It reads: “Now is your Tongue Numb?”