One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish


This post is a part of my “Board Book Beauty – Savoring the small as I read to my toddler” series. To see all of the posts in the series, go here.

“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere,” Dr. Seuss tells us in One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. He’s right. Many of them show up in the world of his own imagination, a quirky place full of ridiculous words and goofy characters.

I grew up on a steady diet of Dr. Seuss. His nonsense words and unmitigated silliness form a core part of my reading heritage, and likely laid the foundation for my love of language. What he lacks in finesse, in artistry, in coherence, he easily makes up for in fun.

We own a number of his books – One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, The Cat in the Hat, Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?, Dr Seuss’s ABCHop on Pop, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and Green Eggs and Ham, as well as a few abridged board books. Each of them has been a favorite at one time or another. The top pick of the moment is the most random of the lot; never will you see more strange and wonderful creatures gathered in one place than in the pages of One Fish. 

There is no reason to One Fish. It jumps from one topic to another, from one bizarre product of Dr. Seuss’s imagination to another. Like the Yop found in its pages, it hops, hops, hops all over the place. (Why does this book just hop, hop, hop? I do not know. Go ask your Pop.) Katie doesn’t mind the lack of plot, however. She just enjoys the overarching themes: the silliness of the language, the quirkiness of the illustrations, the fun of the exploration.

An idea’s popped up in Christian circles lately, sparked by the desire to excite people and motivate them to do great things, to live big lives for God.

“Live a great story,” we’re told, “a better story.” According to this line of thinking, each of our lives is a story, a plot moving toward some ultimate conclusion. Our decisions and our actions drive things forward, and so we should pursue those life choices that make for a great tale.

While I can appreciate the motivation behind such sentiments and I can see their appeal – I am a writer, after all, one who loves the power that story has to move and direct us – I question their validity.

Because here’s the thing: life (or at least, my life) is not a novel. There’s not some plot line, a building crescendo to some climax and resolution. And, much as I like the idea of going out and living the story I want to tell, I don’t know how that plays out in real life when there’s a mortgage to pay and dishes to wash, when two little people rely on me for their every need, rely on me to set a consistent and predictable routine for them and, let’s be honest, who wants to read a tale about consistency and predictability?

Rather than a novel, I wonder if my life isn’t more a series of vignettes, a bunch of seemingly unconnected and random moments that don’t fit into some coherent plot line, but instead lie underneath the overarching themes of faith, of hope, of love. Perhaps my focus should be less on telling a great story and more on seeing what’s already here in front of me, on realizing that funny – and good, and amazing, and wonderful – things (and moments and people and experiences) are everywhere, on enjoying those things as they come.

It might be that my life is less like Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice and more like One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. 

I think I’m okay with that.

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