Published 1958 by Random House
The brother and sister from The Cat in The Hat are shoveling snow from their sidewalk. Once again the little boy is narrating as he tells the audience that he and his sister, Sally, have to clear away all the snow like their mother told them to.
“This was no time for play.
This was no time for fun.
This was no time for games.
There was work to be done.”
They are working hard while their mother is out, when along comes the CAT IN THE HAT! The narrator warns Sally not to talk to the Cat in the Hat because he plays lots of bad tricks. He claims that he just wants to get out of the snow and he skies right into the house! The narrator runs after him because he knows the Cat in the Hat is up to no good.
Next thing we know the Cat in the Hat is in the bath tub eating cake! When the boy tells the cat that this is a bad thing to do the cat simply says,
“But I like to eat cake
In a tub, ‘laughed the cat.
“You should try it some time,’
Laughed the cat as he sat.”
The the boy gets mad. He yells at that cat that this is no time to play and that he has to get out of their house!
When he lets the water out of the tub he notices a pink ring all along the inside of the tub! For a second the Cat in the Hat seems rather sad, because he was just yelled at, but when there is a new problem to solve the cat perks up. He explains that he knows the best way to remove rings from a tub.
“Do you know how he did it?
WITH MOTHER’S WHITE DRESS!
Now the tub was all clean,
But her dress was a mess!”
Sally sees the dress and is worried the pink mess may never come off! But the Cat in the Hat simply laughs and wipes the pink spot off the dress and onto the wall. Now the dress is clean, but the wall is a mess! Next the cat uses their dad’s shoes to get the pink off the wall. Then he rubs the shoes against the carpet and the pink transfers to it. Then from the rug to the bed!
But then the Cat in the Hat seems worried, because he notices it’s not the right kind of bed!
” ‘To take spots off THIS bed
Will be hard,’ said the cat.
“I can’t do it alone,’
Said the Cat in the Hat.”
So the Cat in the Hat takes off his hat and underneath is little Cat A, but Cat A says the spot is too much for him as well. So, he takes off his hat and under it is little Cat B. Cat B reveals Cat C and these three cats set to work. They use a broom, a TV, some milk, a pan and a fan to blow it all out of the house, but now it’s all over the snow!
Now the job is too big for just Cats A, B and C. So they reveal even more cats under even more hats. They get all the way to Cat G. All these little cats try killing the pink snow spots with pop guns, but it just spreads it even more. So they get even more help. All the way to a little speck called Little Cat V.
They start to make snow men and beat the snow with bats and rakes, but this just spreads the pink making the snow completely pink! Finally they reveal Little Cat Z! Instead of another cat, Little Cat Z has something called Voom under his hat.
The Cat in the Hat says that Voom cleans up anything and he tells Little Cat Z to take off his hat and release the Voom!
“Now, don’t ask me what Voom is.
I never will know.
But, boy! Let me tell you
It DOES clean up snow!”
The Voom doesn’t only clean up the snow, but it clears the snow out of the sidewalk and puts all the little cats back under The Cat in the Hat’s hat and Sally and her brother’s work is all done!
The Cat in the Hat tells them that if they ever have to deal with spots again he’d be happy to come back
“…with Little Cats A, B, C, D..
E, F, G…
H, I, J, K…
L, M, N…
and O, P…
…and Q, R, S, T…
and Cat U and Cat V…
and Little Cats W
This story is a great example of the way “children view the gap between their experience, real or perceived and the stories they think their parents will believe.” In fact, Seuss received a letter from a mother with a three year old that had stained their rug and avoided punishment by saying the stain could be cleaned up with Voom. Seuss responded to the letter with his usual silliness by saying:
“the transportation of ‘Voom’…whether in liquid, solid or gaseous form, across state boarders is to be discontinued immediately as a result of a Supreme Court decision (Justice Douglas dissenting) in…the case of Grimalken vs. Drouberhannus…”
A class at Creative Ways Day School in Collinsville, Connecticut, sent a list of questions about the Cat, telling Seuss that after their classroom reading of The Cat in The Hat Comes Back, they found ‘mysterious pink spots all over our play yard.’ Seuss replied:
“The Cat in the Hat sometimes lives in Agawam, Massachusetts. But not very often. He eats Brie Cheese whenever he can get it. He buys his shoes at a Florist Shop in West Hartford, Ct. He does have a very fine brain. But he keeps it home in his next-to-top left Bureau Drawer. He did NOT leave the Pink Spots all over your playground. The Grinch did THAT.”
There is no dedication for The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, but Seuss used his success from his two Cat in the Hat books to help boost his old friends from college. He published Mike McClintock’s book A Fly Went By as one of the first Beginner Books. McClintock was the reason Seuss didn’t go home and burn And To Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street after it was reject several times. McClintock recognized Seuss on the street and asked what he was up to. When Seuss told him about his rejected children’s book McClintock took him to Vangaurd Press which is how Seuss’ children’s book career got rolling.
Seuss also supported his friend Donald Bartlett (who was included in the Yertle the Turtle dedication) by writing him a recommendation to be a cultural attache with the United States Embassy in Tokyo. Bartlett was a faculty member at Dartmouth at the time and Seuss sent him a message of encouragement:
“I stack you up on top of my list of the greatest successes I have ever known….You are tops among few dedicated people who are doing the most important most under-paid goddamn necessary job [teaching] in the world. You are doing what I didn’t have guts enough to do, because I took the easier path. A much much easier path than you have taken.”
The image of the stacked cats under the Cat in the Hat’s hat was developed over time. Seuss stacked three teddy bears (one holding a hat) in a college cartoon in 1924. He later hid a mini version of a humanoid under the hat of a bigger version of the same humanoid for a Ford commercial in 1949. This eventually led to the many cats under the many hats in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. Once again showing the evolution of Seuss’s drawings and ideas.
There is a great section in Charles D. Cohen’s The Suess, The Whole Suess, and Nothing But the Seuss where he talks about analyses comparing the spreading of the pink ring to the rise and expansion of the Red Menace or communist-sympathizing “pinkos”. These same analyses see Voom as a represention the atomic bomb which purges the stain and destroys the threat.
Cohen does not agree and explains:
“Such analyses focus on superficial detials and fail to examine Ted’s actual feelings on the subject. He worked in Hollywood and spent most of his time in the army surrouded by Hollywood ppersonnel. When these people were called before the House Un-American Activities Commitee, Ted’s sympathies lay with the accused. He addressed this subject directly in a 1947 cartoon which ‘Uncle Sam peers down in horror at a community reduced through its mutual suspirciousns to chaos’…This cartoon was not drawn by someone who felt threatened by the indomitable spread of communism, but rather by someone who urged tolerance.”
He also points out that, like most of Seuss’s children’s books, this was an ellaboration of an earlier story called “The Strange Shirt Spot.” In this story the spots were blue-green and spread the same way as the pink spots. Seuss thought blue-green was too close to Oobleck and settled on pink. Also in “The Strange Shirt Spot” a broom is used to clean up the mess so the idea of using “Voom” was probably just to make the story more exciting for young readers, but still keep the rhyme.
To support this explanation here is a quote from Seuss himself:
“They’ll take a book of mine that has one color in it and talk about my great sensitivity in handling that color, and why I chose that color, when the fact is that Bennett Cerf called me up one morning and said, ‘We’re having a bit of a financial problem, so cut down your colors.”
Many of Seuss’s books are very intentionally political. When he has a political or moral lesson he is obvious about it, because he wants his readers to get it. It isn’t something we have to search for like using pink spots to represent Communism. So, forcing a political agenda or moral lesson on his books that don’t already have them is an insult to the author. It takes away from the pure silliness that he sometimes used with the sole purpose of getting young children interested in reading. Especially for his Beginner Readers books which were created to delight young readers, not necessarily to teach them any particular lesson or make them aware of any political message.
The first edition cover is more of a full illustration with a fading blue winter sky and a hill of snow. This was still before the Cat in the Hat was used as a Logo for Beginning Readers (the original logo can be seen above the cats right foot.) Later the background was changed to a solid blue, omitting the snowy hill, to make it match the first book The Cat in the Hat. Red was also added to his bow tie and the title was changed to white.
“Do you know where I found him?
You know where he was?
He was eating cake in the tub!
Yes he was!
The hot water was on
And the cold water, too.
And I said to the cat,
‘What a bad thing to do!’
‘But I like to eat cake
In a tub,’ Laughed the cat.
‘You should try it some time,’
Laughed the cat as he sat.”
I felt the need to put the whole page which I guess is technically two quotes, but together they set the whole scene. Such silliness which is what captures children’s attention when reading this book.
This is actually one of my favorite images in all of Dr. Seuss’s art. Like the quote that matches it, it is just full of wonderful silliness that just delights me. The umbrella over the cake to keep it dry is my favorite part.
Thanks for reading,
Jack St. Rebor