About The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

The Deceptively Simple Book Has a Heavy Message

Cover art for The Lorax picture book by Dr Seuss
Random House

Since The Lorax, a picture book by Dr. Seuss, was first published in 1971, it has become a classic. For many children, the Lorax character has come to symbolize concern for the environment. However, the story has been somewhat controversial, with some adults embracing it and others seeing it as anti-capitalist propaganda. The story is more serious than most Dr. Seuss books and the moral more direct, but his wonderful zany illustrations, use of rhyme and made-up words and unique characters lighten the story and make it appealing to children 6 and older.

The Lorax: The Story

A little boy who wants to learn about the Lorax explains to the reader that the only way to find out about the Lorax is to go to the old Once-ler's home and give him "...fifteen cents/and a nail/and the shell of a great grandfather snail..." to tell the story. The Once-ler tells the boy it all began long ago when there was an abundance of brightly colored Truffula trees and no pollution.

The Once-ler concentrated on expanding his business, adding to the factory, shipping more and more fruit and making more and more money. In telling the story to the little boy, the Once-ler assured him, "I meant no harm. I most truly did not. / But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got."

The Lorax, a creature who speaks on behalf of the trees, appears to complain about the pollution from the factory. The smoke was so bad that the Swomee-Swans could no longer sing. The Lorax sent them off to escape the smog.

The Lorax also angrily pointed out that all of the byproducts from the factory were polluting the pond and he also took the Humming-Fish away. The Once-ler had grown tired of the Lorax's complaints and angrily yelled at him that the factory was going to get bigger and bigger.

But just then, they heard a loud sound.

It was the sound of the very last Truffula tree falling. With no more Truffula trees available, the factory closed. All the Once-lers relatives left. The Lorax left. What remained was the Once-ler, an empty factory and pollution.

The Lorax disappeared, leaving only "a small piece of rocks, with the one word...'UNLESS.'" For years, the Once-ler wondered and worried about what that meant. Now he tells the young boy he understands. "UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

The Once-ler then throws the very last Truffula tree seed down to the boy and tells him he's in charge. He needs to plant the seed and protect it. Then, maybe the Lorax and the other animals will return.

The Impact of The Lorax

What makes The Lorax so effective is the combination of a step-by-step look at cause and effect: how unfettered greed can destroy the environment, followed by an emphasis on positive change through individual responsibility. The story's end emphasizes the impact one person, no matter how young, can have. While the rhyming text and entertaining illustrations keep the book from being too heavy, Dr. Seuss definitely gets his point across. Because of this, the book is frequently used in elementary and middle school classrooms.

Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss was the most prominent of several pseudonyms that Theodor Seuss Geisel used for his children's books. For an overview of some of his most well-known books, see.


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