Why did the cat in the hat come back?

Why does my daughter love “The Cat In The Hat Comes Back” so much? It should be obvious to the discerning reader that the original “The Cat In The Hat” is better in every possible way. The concept is fresher, the writing is tighter, the characters are more fully developed and the plot is certainly more believable, as far as talking cat stories go. But every night, there’s only one book that my daughter will insist upon reading before bed. And I’ll give you a hint – it ain’t the Bible.

In “The Cat In The Hat”, a giant talking cat hustles its way into a house when the owners are away and their children are at home alone. The cat, ably assisted by a pair of disruptive dwarves in full body jumpsuits and sky blue fright wigs, proceeds to trash the house, to the children’s considerable dismay.

At the end of the second act, the situation is looking bleak, much like at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. In fact, “The Cat In The Hat” is reported (by me) to have been George Lucas’s inspiration for the original Star Wars trilogy. Darth Vader is so obviously based on the title character that he even appeared in early drafts of the Star Wars screenplay as “The Cat In The Helmet”. [citation needed]

In the third act of “The Cat In The Hat”, the cat sees the error of his ways. He produces an impressive mechanical cleaning contraption to tidy up the mess that he and the dwarves (i.e. stormtroopers) have left in their wake, finally managing to restore order and vacate the premises just moments before the children’s mother arrives home from the track, or wherever it is that she’s been all this time while her children have been living through a harrowing home invasion.

While this all works in the context of the original story, Lucas wisely steered away from employing the same plot device in Return Of The Jedi. Using a mechanical cleaning contraption to tie up all the loose ends in the galaxy would not have sat well with Star Wars fans. Having said that, using Ewoks to the same purpose was a questionable alternative.

In 1958, just one year after releasing “The Cat In The Hat”, Dr. Seuss released the sequel, “The Cat In The Hat Comes Back”. In “The Cat In The Hat Comes Back”, the cat returns to the scene of his original crime and, once again, convinces the children to let him into the house. This immediately raises more questions about the parents. Not only have they left their children at home unsupervised again, but they still haven’t taught them the first lesson that every parent should teach their children about stranger danger – no matter how friendly and harmless they might seem, you should never, ever, ever let a talking animal into your house.

Unequipped with this important life lesson, the children allow the cat to enter, and soon find him sitting in their bathtub, eating a cake. When they drain the tub, they come across a mysterious pink stain, the nature of which is never fully explained. Is it from the cat’s red top hat and novelty bow tie? Is it from the icing on the cake? Can we dismiss the disturbing possibility that it’s a blood stain? What exactly happened in that bath tub? Is the cat somehow tied up – either as a victim or as a perpetrator – in the nefarious world of black-market organ harvesting? All of these questions remain unanswered as the rest of the plot follows the cat’s comical efforts to remove the stain before the forensics team arrives.

These efforts result in a farcical ending involving twenty six cloned cats, varying in size from miniature to microscopic, and a mysterious substance called Voom, which magically removes the stain, along with all other trace evidence, and would surely be in high demand amongst the organ harvesting community.

The whole thing feels hastily put together, like it was rushed to market in a bid to turn around some quick cash, possibly to feed a green eggs and ham addiction. If this is the second book in the series, we can only be thankful that the good doctor didn’t go to seven like J.K. Rowling. “The Cat In The Hat And The Deathly Hallows” would have been stretching the friendship.

As sequels go, “The Cat In The Hat Comes Back” is no “Godfather Part II”. It’s more of a “Phantom Menace”, to be honest. But there’s no question that my daughter loves it, and I think I know the reason why. She likes baths and she likes cake, and everything else is inconsequential.

That doctor sure did understand children.

Do your kids have questionable taste in literature? Leave a comment and tell me all about it.

One Response to 'Why did the cat in the hat come back?'

  1. Glenn Murray says:

    Ha! “The Cat in the Helmet”!

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