When the Sneetch Children Cry

Last week, I visited a local elementary school to read to kindergartners through second graders for the National Education Association’s Read Across America campaign. It’s the 5th year that I’ve been invited to read Dr. Seuss classics to kids. It is seriously one of the highlights of my year.

I read Gerald McBoing Boing (my personal favorite), Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?, and, of course, the ever-popular, Green Eggs and Ham. 

I don’t know what it is, but it seems that when I open up a Dr. Seuss book, I immediately become a child myself…and the children I’m reading to are transported to a magical world where non-sensical rhymes suddenly make sense…and imaginary characters come to life.

sneetchAs I was reading to the kids, I wondered what it would have been like if Dr. Seuss had written some stories about children in poverty. What a great opportunity to teach kids today about the conditions that their counterparts in other parts of the world live in!

What would that look like? Perhaps:

I do not like that the Sneetch children cry
with empty star bellies that growl all night
I do not like that they can’t drink
of water as clean as I have in my sink.

I don’t like famine, disease and war
I wish they didn’t exist anymore.
I don’t like the heartache, come to think of it,
I do not like poverty,
not one little bit.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Dr. Seuss book if it just focused on the sad. No, indeed the Cat in the Hat turned dreary, rainy days into wonderful, happy, if not misguided, adventures. Maybe something like this:

Then all the Sneetch children would wipe away frowns
To laugh with each other on Flozzle playgrounds
They’d swing and they’d sing and they’d dance in a ring
‘Tis the end of poverty–what a wonderful thing!

Unfortunately, we don’t have such a book. Perhaps it’s because poverty is far too real and dark to capture in whimsical rhyme. 

But maybe, just maybe, we can all be a Dr. Seuss by rewriting the stories of real children in poverty. It’s not that hard actually.

Sponsoring a child gives you the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty for a child. It gives them the chance to believe in a world where poverty comes to an end. And that is a wondrous thing indeed. 

13 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Deann Ayer May 26, 2012

    I love the creative rhymes and anything that educates children or adults about poverty or encourages children in poverty, gives them hope, and makes them smile. Rock on with these ideas!


  2. Mike Stephens March 25, 2009

    Tim I really liked what you said A LOT!!! When you started mentioning about a Dr. Seuss book for children in poverty I was thinking “there is one it’s called the BIBLE!!!” And I can see why it is so important for people in poverty to read it and myself you is living in such affluence…because I see how it can provide TRUTH and HOPE and FAITH to those in poverty and us as well but I can see how the bible helps us with so much realize that our time on earth is not some fluffy cloudy Candyland game. There are many people suffering greatly and my affluence and abundance often blinds me!!! The bible by Dr. Jesus has some often times funny stories but they are very real with real consequences!!! I need to read the bible more!!! Thanks for the blog!!!

  3. Chris Giovagnoni January 8, 2009

    Not yet Juli. But very soon.

  4. Juli Jarvis January 8, 2009

    Oh, this is hilarious! You guys are brilliant! Just came across the link from today’s blog post. I didn’t see it back in March — Did the (secret) website for kids get launched this summer?

  5. Tim Glenn April 3, 2008

    Hey Sidney!

    “Dr. Tim”….Hmmm….yeah, it’s got a nice ring to it! But I think I’d probably get in trouble for that one!

    I do, however, have a couple of children’s books in me. I think I could put something together!

    Thanks for reading…and for commenting.

  6. Sidney April 3, 2008

    Tim – this is great! I was going to suggest that perhaps you ought to do some ‘Dr.Tim’ books for kids. Glad to know you are thinking about it. A website for kids – now you are talking! What took you so long?

  7. Tim Glenn March 31, 2008


  8. Vicki Small March 31, 2008

    Dave: Pretty cool!

    Tim: Okay, I’ll keep your secret, but I’m looking forward to the addition to the website!

    Um…by the way, you realize you published your “secret” on a public website, right? :o)

  9. Tim March 30, 2008

    I love it!

    In our US Advocacy communications pieces, we have used a Dr. Seuss quote from Horton…

    “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

    Great quote.

    Very well done, Compassion Dave!
    Thanks for sharing.

  10. Compassion dave March 29, 2008

    Reminds of a CS presentation
    I once wanted to do,
    Based on that wonderful book
    Called, “Horton Hears a Who!”

    It began…

    “How true! Yes, how true,” said the big kangaroo.
    “And, from now on, you know what I’m planning to do?
    From now on, I’m going to protect them with you!”
    And the young kangaroo in her pouch said, “Me too!
    From sun in the summer. From rain when it’s fall-ish,
    I’m going to protect them.
    No matter how small-ish!”

    But Wess wrote that book,
    “No Matter How Small-ish?”
    Oh no, I’m mistaken…
    Twas, “To Small to Ignor-ish.”

    1. Bren September 25, 2012

      Your poem is brilliant. That in my lifetime there is still such dreadful poverty involving chidren is heartbreaking. We are so good at hiding what we don’t want to see.

  11. Tim March 29, 2008


    Yes, I did write it! I’m glad you like it. It was actually pretty fun to do!
    Right now, the US Advocacy team is working on a website for kids that will launch sometime this summer. (shhhh! I’s a secret!) Maybe we can come up with a book for kids too!

    Thanks for reading…and for commenting.

  12. Vicki Small March 28, 2008

    I presume you wrote that poem about the Sneetch children–? I’m no expert, but I think it is good! Maybe you could incorporate that into some of Compassion’s materials for children. And if you can come up with any more, throw them in!

    Pretty pleeeeeze?

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