Lessons from The Lorax

Sarene Marshall's kids at The Lorax screening

We are a family of quite dedicated Dr. Seuss fans — when my husband and I got married and combined our book collections, we discovered we owned two copies of The Cat in the Hat.

Our two girls (now 6 and 7 ½) have been immersed in Seuss’ writings since before birth. The first book we ever read them was “Oh, Baby, the Places You’ll Go” — a veritable tour through dozens of Dr. Seuss’ books, featuring Horton, Cindy-Lou Who and a range of other characters from some of his most beloved books. “Oh, Baby” is subtitled “A Book to be Read in Utero” and contains an interesting forward by Dr. Seuss’ widow about the late author’s interest in babies’ ability to hear sound while in the womb.

Whether it’s proof that the in-utero reading worked or not, I don’t know, but we moved on from there to many, many bedtimes accompanied by The Cat in the Hat; One Fish, Two Fish; Green Eggs and Ham; and many other Seuss and Seuss-inspired beginner books.

Although we have always owned Seuss’ more advanced stories, we had only read a few of them before other characters and genres (including lots of Fancy Nancy!) took over our nighttime reading rituals and the Seuss books got left on the shelf more often than not. And how ironic that, given I spend my days at The Nature Conservancy working to protect forests, our girls had never read Seuss’ quintessential environmental tale, The Lorax!

So, it was with great excitement that we took advantage of the release of The Lorax movie — a rare opportunity to be able to connect my profession with a time-tested, kid-friendly story. And, even better than that, we were given the chance to see the movie before it was out in theaters — courtesy of The Nature Conservancy’s partnership with Universal Pictures, which aims to engage movie-goers in a campaign to bring Earth’s current equivalent of a Truffula forest back to life.

In preparation for our field trip to the theater, we dusted off our copy of The Lorax story, and our girls excitedly produced colorful interpretations of Lorax characters and scenes.

The Lorax

Since many critics and moviegoers have now shared their reviews of the film, I’ll withhold mine. But I thought it would be fun to see what my daughters thought of it. After all, like many parents, I am often surprised and entertained by how different my children’s views can be on an experience we (theoretically) have shared. Among their reactions:

  • Despite excitement about the perks of going to the exclusive screening (including an early departure from school, an afternoon with mom, nice goody bag with T-shirts and pencils and bragging rights with their friends), they were slightly disappointed that the American Motion Picture Association Screening Room did not allow popcorn or drinks.
  • They — presumably like most kids — were enthralled by the bright 3D visuals, the adventure (bed going down a waterfall), many of the jokes (disco mode on the automatic tree anyone?) and songs.
  • As to the underlying environmental message, it seems I’ve been doing my job at home, because they said emphatically that they would not want to live in Thneedville, because “there’s nothing natural there.”
  • That got us talking about why we would want to keep forests alive. To pass the time on our metro ride home, they came up with a list of things trees are good for. Clean air – not surprisingly, given the movie’s message — was first on the list. The others:
    -Shade and shelter – from the sun and rain
    -Food – like apples, peaches and pears
    -Beautiful colors (from leaves and flowers) that “make us cheerful”
    -Fun (supporting a zip-line or tire swing, providing endless hiding spots for backyard games)
    -Homes for animals

Practically, they also noted what we cut trees down for — firewood, paper and furniture. Given a bit more time, I’m sure they also would have mentioned the benefits of climate control. After all, forests are the world’s lungs and air conditioners — the reason why keeping them standing, and replanting forests we’ve lost, is an important effort in helping keep the planet cool and safe.

So I’m thrilled that The Lorax encourages all of us to reflect on how nature makes our lives better and reminds me why I do what I do everyday. What lessons has The Lorax taught you and your family about nature? Share your stories in the comments section below.

[Images courtesy of Sarene Mashall/TNC]

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  1. Kudos to the kiddos on their review and list of things trees are good for!

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