Title: Happy Birthday to You!

Author/Illustrator: Dr. Seuss

Publisher: New York: Random House, 1959, 1987.

Genre: Picture book, fiction/fantasy

Audience Age: 3 to 8 years

Themes/topics: birthdays, individuality, celebrations, self-esteem, celebration of self

Opening Sentences: I wish we could do what they do in Katroo. They sure know how to say “Happy Birthday to You!”

Synopsis: The Great Birthday Bird and the Katroo Happy Birthday Asso-see-eye-ation combine to celebrate the most glorious birthday of all, the day you became YOU. Dr. Seuss’s trademark nonsense-verse that makes a great deal of sense, and his fantastic fantasy illustrations combine in this flight of fancy party with amazing presents and unheard of treats.

The main thought, repeated several times over, is a thorough celebration of the uniqueness and worth of the birthday person – “If you’d never been born, then what would you be? You might be a fish! Or a toad in a tree!” … “But you … You ARE YOU!” … “There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”

All the fun and the silliness of a typical Dr. Seuss book are here in abundance, and will delight children – but the message “There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” is the reason this book has won its place in my heart, for all time. What a great thing to celebrate! Kids so often feel that they aren’t as good as someone else, or they try to be someone else, and it is crucial to celebrate who they really are. This book can help.

Personal Note: I don’t know why, but I had no Dr. Seuss books when I was a child (despite the fact that his books were certainly available during my childhood). I first encountered Happy Birthday to You! when our church minister read it as a children’s story in church when I was eleven or twelve (or perhaps even more). (Thanks, Ken!) I immediately loved it for its celebration of each child’s uniqueness, and have loved it ever since.

Activities/Resources: A child on his/her own could be encouraged to think of the things that make her/him special – “I can tell stories. I can play the piano. My cat loves me.” In a group setting, children might tell each other special (positive) things. “I like how you sing. You can run really fast.”

For a birthday party, it would be fun to have a special Katroo birthday, beginning with a reading of the book, then hotdogs (followed by washing off the mustard in the Mustard Off pool, aka the bathroom sink), the “what makes you special” game, a craft consisting of creating drums from empty plastic containers for the “Drummers who drum as they come,” guitars from empty tissue boxes with elastic bands stretched across them for the “Strummers who strum as they come,” and tissue paper covered combs (new, clean ones) and a lesson in humming against the comb for the “Zummers… who make the music that Zummers call zumming!” The grand finale would be the birthday cake, possibly flavored with peppermint, but likely not “peppermint cucumber sausage-paste butter!”

Availability: Readily available in hardcover.

Every Friday, bloggers join together to share picture book reviews and resources, thanks to author Susanna Leonard Hill’s brainchild, “Perfect Picture Book Fridays.” Susanna then adds the books (and links to the reviews) to a comprehensive listing by subject on her blog. Find the entire listing at her “Perfect Picture Books.”


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