HORTON HEARS A WHO
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING: Friendship; Courage.
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS: Responsibility; Respect; Caring.
AT A GLANCE: Ages: 4 – 8; MPAA Rating: G; Animated; 2008; 86 minutes; Color; Available from Amazon.com.
One day, while having fun in his jungle home, Horton the elephant finds a speck that just happens to contain the entire world of Whoville. Although he can’t see tiny Whoville, Horton can sometimes hear it. He decides that he must protect the tiny little Whos, because, as he often states, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Unfortunately, some of the other jungle animals don’t agree. They tire of Horton encouraging everyone to use their imagination and to believe in the speck. The jungle mob, led by angry mom Kangaroo, decides to destroy the speck, Whoville, and Horton’s imagination, once and for all.
The lesson of this tale, “A person’s a person, no matter how small” … or strange, or big, or sick, or fat or skinny, or who belongs to another ethnic group or who believes in another religion . . . is a lesson that people need to repeat to themselves throughout their lives. This is an entertaining and visually spectacular adaptation of the Dr. Seuss story. It is full of Dr. Seuss’ rich vocabulary. He is one of the few storytellers who doesn’t “dumb it down” for kids.
Vlad the vulture can be a bit scary at times, and the final scenes of Horton being chased and captured might be intense for very younger children.
TALKING FOR VERBAL, SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
What kinds of animals did we see in the movie? Which one did you like the best? Why did you like it the best?
If you were a Who, what would you have thought about the Mayor or about the invisible elephant in the sky?
→ Always encourage your child to form opinions and to share them.
→ Open-ended questions will help get a discussion going.
What was Horton doing when he first saw the speck of dust?
What finally convinced that animals in the jungle to believe Horton?
→ Just talking with your child fosters verbal, social and emotional learning.
→ Exercise memory skills by asking about the story, the characters, and the plot. Keep it light and fun.
Why could Horton hear the Whos better than the other animals?
→ Young children love Story Time.
DISCUSSIONS BASED ON THEMES IN THE MOVIE
Select questions appropriate for your child.
1. Kangaroo says, “If you can’t see, hear, or feel something, it doesn’t exist.” What do you think about that? Talking About It — Kangaroo was wrong. There are many things that exist that we can’t see. Just take a magnifying glass or a microscope and look through it. There are bacteria, specks of dust, molecules atoms and many other things that exist but which are too small to see. Then there are things that are too far away to see.
→ When a parent takes a concept from the movie seriously, a child will start thinking about the lessons of the film. Often, it only takes one comment to start a child’s mind going.
→ You can talk about a movie at any time: right after it is over, in the car on the way to school, during quiet time, or before bed.
2. Would Horton agree if I said that, “a person is a person, no matter how big” or “a person is a person, no matter what he looks like”, or “a person is a person, even if they speak another language or come from a far off contry”? Talking About It — What Horton is really saying is that a person’s a person no matter what.
→ Don’t feel obligated to cover everything in this Guide. One or two questions are all that some children will tolerate. However, if your child watches the movie more than once, on each occasion start a new conversation or pick a new activity. This will enhance verbal development and increase the number of lessons your child takes from the film.
3. Did Horton have a responsibility to keep the Whos safe? What was his responsibility to the Whos? Talking About It — There was no law that said that Horton had to help the Whos. There was no rule that required him to help the Whos or else he would be punished. The only rule that applied and the only responsibility that Horton had was through the Golden Rule.
→ The Golden Rule is basic to morality and ethics. Here is a modern formulation of the Rule. Have your child memorize this or another version. Repeat it to your child often when a decision about how to act must be made: “In every situation, act toward others in the same way that you would want others to act toward you.” Show your child how to apply it in his or her own life. Let your child see you apply the Rule in decisions that you make.)
PLAYING FOR GROWTH
Play and activities are important for developing skills and confidence. While you play these games with your child, remember to talk to your child as much as possible.
Wonderful Words — There are a lot of great vocabulary words used in this movie, and in the book. Make up a few sentences at a time with the word and ask your kids to makeup sentences, too. If your children are going to watch the movie repeatedly, as many children will want to do, try to make your sentences apply to the use of the word in the movie. As your child watches the movie, spend a little time listening, write down a word or two and use them the next time you speak with your child. Also, play with the sounds of the words.
Here is a list of some of the interesting vocabulary words in the movie:
predator, disguise, self-proclaimed, eccentric, harebrained, sneer, speck, jabber, stampede, diplomatic, ridiculous, imaginary, poison, standards, under advisement, appreciate, input, devoted, whip, brood, awesome, legacy, resolution, ordinance, budget, mayoral, illusion, continue, supervisory, come clean, commute, condominium, label, tremor, whirling, celebrate, blathering, cosmic, convergence, amazing, stability, dramatic, obliterated, stabilize, stalwart, centennial, technique, weird, menace, imagination, plummet, take into account, disaster, hit the hay, breakdown, impose, metaphor, yelp, ammo, tolerate, clover, odd, deluded, secret societies, route, luxury, convey, unusual, postpone, brainiest, ramification, achieve, edible, perilous, trek, faithful, curse, pachyderm, precarious, absolutely terrifying, outspoken, abandoned, content, motto, democratically, endowed, inalienable rights, authority, defiance.
Here are suggestions for sentences that relate to the use of the word in the movie for ten of the words:
1. Disguise: Kangaroo could disguise her anger with a sweet smile, but if you looked carefully you could see that it was fake.
2. Convergence: The two roads converged and became one.
3. Harebrained: Kangaroo was sure that Horton’s idea of helping a talking clover was just a harebrained scheme, a foolish, silly, idea.
4. Jabber: Horton was nervous and began to jabber, talking about nothing important.
5. Stampede: A stampede of angry jungle animals pursued the elephant and his clover.
6. Under advisement: Kangaroo wanted nothing more than for Horton to stop talking about the clover. He said that he would take her ideas under advisement and give them a good think.
7. Cosmic: One night, Horton thought that if a whole world lived on a small clover, that perhaps his jungle world was just a little piece of a gigantic clover that was being held by an even larger creature, which itself was a very small part of the universe. He looked up into the sky and saw all the stars. “Now that’s a cosmic thought”, he said to himself as he settled down to sleep.
8. Luxury: The luxury condos being built in Whoville were going to be fit for royalty, full of expensive and fancy things.
9. Stalwart: Horton was a stalwart defender of the Whos; he was strong, determined and would never give up.
10. Technique: Simply telling Kangaroo that the Whos existed wasn’t working; Horton decided to use a new technique to convince her.
There are many fun ways to incorporate vocabulary into games. Read the words for your child, and have them repeat it back to you. See who can say it the silliest, the loudest, the softest, the angriest, etc. Look up the words together, or online, in a dictionary. Once you know what they mean, draw pictures of the meaning and hold a contest for the best picture. You can also play with the “Horton Hears a Who Story Maker” to create your own story with drawings and music, giving the characters as many of these words to use as you can.
Your World — After Horton discovers the speck, his class imagines that they each have a world on their clover. On a piece of paper, draw a flower, and on that, draw a speck. Then turn the piece of paper over and draw pictures, or write a story about everything that is in your new world. What do the creatures look like? What food do they eat? How do they get around? What kinds of clothes do they wear? What toys do they play with? What are their favorite games?
Stories are essential tools for verbal development, social-emotional learning, and character education. Intentional parents can use family movies as a basis for storytelling.
Repeat the story of the movie at bedtime, on a rainy day, or at any quiet time. Let your child correct you if you make a mistake and, better yet, encourage your child to tell you the story. Both of you can invent new adventures for Horton, the Mayor and all their friends. Your child’s imaginative and verbal capacities will be enhanced if you invent new characters and create situations that are not in the movie. To learn more about enhancing growth and development through stories told to children, go to How to Tell Bedtime Stories . . . Any Time.
Here is a story to read to your child. If you read it at bedtime and your child falls asleep before you are finished, complete the story some other time.
More than anything, Ashna loved to hear her parents read aloud. Horton Hears a Who was one of her favorite books. Every night before bed, she would pull the worn copy out from under her pillow and plop it into her mom’s lap. If her father read to her, she would lean on her dad’s shoulder, listening to the words and see pictures of Horton and the Mayor, the animals of the Noor jungle and the little people of Whoville.
As her eyelids grew heavy and her head began to droop, her dad would say, “Good night, sweet Ashna, I hope you visit a special speck in your dreams.” Her mom would then lean over and give Ashna a tender kiss on her forehead and whisper, “And remember my little girl, ‘A person’s a person, no matter how small.'”
Now, this particular night was special, because the next morning Ashna would be starting her first day of elementary school. She was nervous and excited all at once, and felt like she had a tummy ache. Her parents reassured her that everything would be just fine, and to help soothe her nerves, her father read her the book twice in a row.
As Ashna drifted in sleep, her mind popped alive with a vivid dream. In it, Ashna was walking through a thick forest. A loud crunching noise was surrounding her. She looked around, worried that someone (or something) might be chasing her. She looked at her herself and what she saw made her want to laugh out loud. Instead of hands, she had giant gray legs. And instead of standing on two legs, she was walking on four. When she started to laugh, instead of a giggle, out came a loud trumpeting noise. She had turned into Horton! But just as soon as Ashna settled down and became excited to explore being an elephant, POP! The whole dream had changed.
Now Ashna found herself on a beach, walking next to the gentle water. The warm sun beat down on her back and she ran her hand through the clear sea. “What a wonderful place!” she thought.
“Not so fast!” came a squeaky little voice. Ashna spun around, but couldn’t see anybody.
“Oh, yeah? You’ll regret it!” said a louder, grumpier voice. She still couldn’t see anyone else on the beach.
Suddenly she felt something bump into her ankle. She looked down and spotted two little crabs, snapping their claws at one another.
Ashna tried to intervene, “Excuse me, um, excuse- OW!” She had been pinched on her toe. The two crabs, realizing that they were no longer alone, had acted as if Ashna was their enemy.
Ashna knelt down and said “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you. Although you sure hurt me! Is everything okay?”
The crab with the squeaky voice was the smallest, and his shell was purple, almost black. He clacked his claws and, Ashna thought, looked sort of embarrassed. “Sorry about that, little girl. I hope I didn’t hurt ya. . . .”
“You see,” interrupted the other crab, waving his shiny red claws in the air, “my brother here thinks that I should be treating him the same as me, you know, taking him out to the sea with me and my friends, letting him play sand games with us, and I keep telling him that he is too little, and that he can’t do any of this stuff. I don’t think he should be doing anything with me, or any of my friends, or even be allowed to explore until he’s older. He’s just too little! Look at him!”
Ashna smiled. “You know,” she said, “a very famous elephant once said ‘A person’s a person, no matter how small.'” She paused, and then said, “Well, I guess you can just say ‘crab’ instead of ‘person.'”
The two crabs looked at each other before the older one spoke. “I suppose you and that elephant are right. I probably shouldn’t leave you out just because you’re little. As long as it’s safe for you, you can come with us. Let’s go, small fry, first one to the water wins!” The two crabs scuttled away and Ashna heard the little one yell “Thaaank yooouuu!”
She was just about to jump into the ocean to swim as she felt something pulling at her arm. Slowly, Ashna’s eyes opened, and she was back in her bedroom, her mom standing over her bed, saying “Ashna, wake up! It’s time for your first day of school!”
As she ate her breakfast and rubbed the sleep from her eyes, Ashna thought about her dream. She hoped the little crab had a happy, trying to keep up with his older brother. Still groggy, and getting a little nervous, Ashna put her school supplies in her backpack. Everyone bustled around as her mother and father got ready to go out with her, so that they could all wait for the school bus together. Before she even stepped off the porch, the big yellow school bus was grumbling up the street. The breaks complained as they stopped the wheels and the bus door opened with a soft and welcoming sigh. Ashna got a big hug and a kiss from her parents, took a deep breath, and climbed onto the bus.
Ashna’s new classroom and her new teacher were both very nice, and Ashna had already made friends with all of the kids at her table. Everyone in her class seemed pretty pleasant. Well, almost everyone. There was one girl named Izzie who was very pretty, and had on fancy earrings. All of the girls were a little jealous – nobody they had known was allowed to wear earrings so young! She was very smart and outspoken. Ashna felt intimidated by her.
There was also a quiet and shy boy named Luis. He sat by himself at the back of the room, as far away from the other kids as he could. He wouldn’t look anyone in the eye, and he always looked like he was about to cry. Luis hid his eyes below a swatch of tangled brown hair that fell over his forehead. When the time came for the class to practice their handwriting, Luis wasn’t prepared and didn’t have any paper or pencils. The teacher had to give him some to use. Luis didn’t even have a backpack.
The class was concentrating and practicing their letters when the kids at Izzie’s table started laughing and pointing at the back of the room, making fun of Luis. Ashna didn’t feel right about this. Her tummy felt like it had before, nervous, but this time she wasn’t excited – she was angry.
The teasing got louder and louder. Soon the whole class was laughing. They were making fun of Luis for being quiet and for not having any supplies. Ashna noticed a big tear roll down Luis’ cheek. Just as the teacher was about to speak, Ashna stood up and yelled “Hey! Stop it!” The whole class turned to look at her. She suddenly wondered why she had just done what she’d done. The room was silent. Ashna didn’t know what to do, but then the words from her dream came to her. “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
Izzie smirked. “We never said Luis was small,” she sneered.
The teacher cleared her throat. “And that’s not what Ashna meant. She meant that a person is a person, no matter how different they are from us. That a person must be treated like a person, treated with respect, no matter what.” She wrote “The Golden Rule” on the board and said “This is explained in a lot of different ways. You may have heard ‘treat other people the way you want them to treat you.’ But I like Ashna’s way of saying it, ‘A person’s a person, no matter how small.'”
Ashna blushed. “It’s actually from my favorite book of all, Horton Hears a Who.”
A small voice said “That’s my favorite book of all, too.” The class looked around to see who had said this. It was Luis. These were the first words he had ever addressed to the entire class.
From that day, Luis played with Ashna and her friends at recess, and they all became good buddies. Ashna and Luis became special friends, because they had something important in common. Every day, after school, they would sit next to each other on the bus and read aloud their favorite book of all. Because a person’s a person… no matter how small.
BRIDGES TO READING
All of the Dr. Seuss books are wonderful to read to children, although Horton Hears a Who is different than the film and might confuse them.
There are many adaptations of Dr. Seuss stories, though not all are as successful or touching as this one.