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The Sneetches

Dr. Seuss
New York: Random House, 1961

Themes: inclusion, equality, inner worth, jealousy, justice, prejudice, discrimination, outer differences, friendship

The Star-Belly Sneetches think they are the best, and look down upon Sneetches without “stars upon thars”. The Plain-Belly Sneetches remain oppressed, prohibited from associating with their star-bellied counterparts. They learn a lesson when Sylvester McMonkey McBean (“the Fix-it-up Chappie”) comes to town and teaches them that pointless prejudice can be costly.

This story is a great one for teaching all of us the danger of making judgements based on outward appearances or even perceived differences. Once McBean comes to town with his star-off and star-on machine, there’s no more telling who’s who anymore. The Sneetches are left without money, but also without the source of their prejudice. The confusion helps all the sneetches to recognize that there is no declaring anyone is ‘the best Sneetch on the beach’.

The story leads very well into a discussion about what we can learn from the Sneetches. We are all different, whether its due to our outward appearance, how we think, what we eat, or who we love… These differences, like the stars on the bellies, are not a good reason to exclude. They are opportunities to celebrate our uniqueness. It is so important to reinforce with our children that they are valuable and that each person is equally valuable, although uniquely different. Where and how it matters, we are the same. We are human, we all want to be included.

What matters is how we might try our best to act like the Sneetches that are revealed at the end of the story, rather than those at the beginning. If we can include others, if we can reach out to someone that seems different…come out of our comfort zone in order to make that connection…we will soon learn how similar we are, and how we can learn from each other’s differences.

This is one of Dr. Seuss’ finest…It’s amazingly fun to read out loud….and its worth reading again and again.

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