Dr. Seuss: “We Can Do Better Than This”

Seuss, Better Butter Battle

Dr. Seuss, Butter Battle Book

Ten years ago the fabled children’s author Dr. Seuss, on his death bed, said, “We can do better than this.”  As we launch into 2011, let this be our challenge.  And may we do so with Dr. Seuss’s special mixture of comedy and earnestness, which is captured in this poem by my father.

If you know Dr. Seuss’s work, see how many of the references you can catch.  (I’ve listed as many as I can identify after the break, but I may have missed some.)  If you don’t know Dr. Seuss, just surrender to his distinctive use of language.

In the Cosmic Caboose of Dr. Seuss

By Scott Bates

We can do better than this.”
--Last words of Dr. Seuss (1904-1991)

Dr. Theodor Seuss
Used to play fast and loose
With the deadliest, dullest reality--
Oh, the places he went!  Oh, the things he did see!
	Like the gol-darndest zoo
	Of young Gerald McGrew
And Horton the Incredible Elephant, too,
Who rescued the Egg and the World of the Who;
	--Or the lands of those kooks
	The Yooks and the Zooks
With their bomb called A BITSY BIG-BOY BOOMEROO
That was going to blow us to Sala-ma-goo
	All because of a Wall
	And no notion at all
That a person’s a person no matter how small!

--PLUS the fabulous sights we were likely to meet
On the way home from school on Mulberry Street,
	Not to mention the Whacks
	Of the Truffula Axe
On the smogulous Street of the Lifted Lorax!

--Give the Doctor a cat, he’d give him a hat,
A wopsical hat!  Would he settle for that?
	Would he settle for one?
	Or for two, three or four?
No!  Not Dr. Seuss!  Not even a score!
Take Bartholomew Cubbins.  The hats that he wore
They numbered five hundred, not a single hat more.
	And when he was done,
	The very last one
	The five hundredth hat
	Was a wonderful thing,
A throbulous bibulous oblifferous thing
That Bartholomew Cubbins could sell to a king!

--And when, at the end, Dr. Theodor Seuss
Went riding with Thidwick the Big-hearted Moose
On his Cosmic Express, in his Big Red Caboose,
And they came to the home of the Grumbling Grinch
On the top of the cliff called Calamitous Clinch.
In the Proverbial,
	Did Dr. Seuss falter?
	Did he flee?
	Did he flinch?
	Did he say, “What’s the use?”
No!  Not Dr. Geisel!  No! Not Dr. Seuss!
On the ultimate inch of the last precipice
He just said,
	“We can do better than this.”

And we can!  With Horton and Thidwick the Moose
And the Grinch and the Lorax and Cindy Lou Who
And Dr. Seuss, too, in the Great Seuss Caboose,
	We can go beyond Zebra,
	Beyond Sala-ma-goo—
And the Valley of Vung and the Solla Sollew—
At the ultimate edge of the Boom Band Abyss—

On the corner where Mulberry Street meets Bliss—

We can certainly do much better than this!
Dr. Seuss References
Oh, the Places You'll Go
If I Ran the Zoo
Horton Hears a Who
And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street
Butter Battle Book
I Had Trouble in Getting To Solla Sollew
The Lorax
The Cat in the Hat
The 500 Hats of Bartholmew Cubbins
Thidwick the Big-hearted Moose
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
On Beyond Zebra
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  1. Susan
    Posted January 3, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    What a great tribute to Dr. Seuss!! How refreshing to be creatively and whimsically challenged to do better and go farther by this post and your father’s poem. You make a great duo.

    I love the playfulness and silliness with which the wisdom of Seuss was served to me as a child. It reminds me that lightening up and being more playful, while still living out the care of love is one of my hopes for the new year.

  2. Robin Bates
    Posted January 4, 2011 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    I think Dr. Seuss can be summed up by “on beyond,” Susan. Whether he’s pushing his imagination or her word play, he’s always working to expand our imaginations. It sounds like your New Year’s resolution, which is mine as well, challenges us to push beyond our normal parameters. But what a worthwhile challenge to set for ourselves! Especially the lightness part.


  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

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