Dr. Seuss’s Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? is a book I knew by title long before I took the time to read it. I should also note that I think the question posed by the title is one that’s is critically important to ask of me and people like me. People who are, for example, able with little effort to do well in relatively-good public schools, go to a university, and graduate with little or no debt.
I suppose I should have known that a great title doesn’t make a great book, but I forgot. I also suppose I should have realized that Dr. Seuss is not exactly one to talk about the privileges I have had, but I forgot. So I found myself an odd mix of disappointed and satisfied when I finally took the chance to read the book.
Did I Ever Tell You… proceeds about the way you’d expect a Dr. Seuss book with that question in the title would. The narrator begins by telling about when he met a man in the Desert of Drize who “sang with a sunny sweet smile on his face:”
When you think things are bad,
when you feel sour and blue,
when you start to get mad…
you should do what I do!
Just tell yourself, Duckie,
you’re really quite lucky!
Some people are much more…
oh, ever so much more…
oh, muchly much-much more
unluckly than you!
From there, we of course proceed through a litany of terribly unfortunate people forced to do terribly scary or unfortunate things. All, of course, accompanied by the dynamic and colorful illustrations for which Dr. Seuss is so well known.
But all of it, as well-executed as it is, as much as I love the idea, left me disappointed. Surely there’s something to be said for my having held too much anticipation for too long to be quite satisfied with a children’s book, even one by Dr. Seuss.
I know it’s silly to criticize a children’s book for being too simplistic and diversionary, but that’s the problem I find myself having with Did I Ever Tell You…. The reality, I suppose, is that I don’t know how lucky I am. That there exists a single children’s book that asks one of the most essential questions that most Americans–and really most in the “first world”–need to grapple with at some time is a marvel. And for that alone, I should be at least a little satisfied. And I’m certain that should I have children, they will be repeatedly subjected the book, however imperfect I find it.