Happy Birthday To You!


Published 1959 by Random House


The story opens with the narrator explaining the birthday traditions in the land of Katroo. First, the Birthday Honk-Honker hikes up to Mt. Zorn and blows the big Birthday Horn which calls out:

“Wake Up! For today is your Day of all Days!”

Then the Great Birthday Bird arrives. The Birthday Bird has been specially trained by the Katroo Happy Birthday Asso-see-eye-ation.

“This bird has a brain. He’s most beautifully brained.
With the brainiest bird-brain that’s ever been trained.”

Like Santa Claus, the Birthday Bird knows where you live and on your birthday heads straight for your room. When you meet the bird you do the Secret Katroo Birthday Hi-Sign-and-Shake. To take us through the story there is a little blonde boy that represents the “You” part of the story. The bird and “you” get up really early so you don’t waste a minute then you have a snack on a Smorgasbord’s back. A Smorgasbord, in this case, is a Seussian beast that has trays and chairs on like a saddle. The trays are covered with all sorts of delicious food.

While the reader watches the Birthday Bird and “You” climb many stairs to the Katroo Sounding-Off Place the narrator explains:

“If we didn’t have birthdays, you wouldn’t be you.
If you’d never been born, well then what would you do?
If you’d never been born, well then what would you be?
You might be a fish! Or a toad in a tree!

Or worse than all that…Why, you might be a WASN’T!
A Wasn’t has no fun at all. No, he doesn’t.
A Wasn’t just isn’t. He just isn’t present.
But you…You ARE YOU! And, now isn’t that pleasant!”

When they reach the sounding off place they shout at the top of their lungs

“I AM I!
I am I!
And I may not know why
But I know that I like it.
Three cheers! I AM I!”

Then they head to the Birthday Flower Jungle where the best-sniffing flowers are grown to be sniffed by your own private nose. They smell like all sorts of things including licorice and cheese. The flowers are cut by the Who-Bubs so that they can be piled on fifty Hippo-Heimer’s backs and taken home for you to smell.

Then it’s time for Birthday Lunch which is hot dogs served on a spool. As a rule, you are suppose to stuff yourself, and naturally that would leave you covered in mustard, so you have to go to the Mustard-Off Pools. As you dry off from your swim you sing loud, “I am lucky!” and “I am I!”

Now it’s time for presents. The Birthday Bird decides to get the little blonde boy the tallest pet that the Official Katroo Birthday Pet Reservation has to offer. They line up all the pets in order of smallest to tallest (but some of them stand on their tiptoes and cheat.) He also gives the boy a Time-Telling fish (that has a clock for a face) that Diver Getz gets and Diver Gitz gits.

Now it’s time for the Birthday Party at the Birthday Pal-alace. The Pal-alace has nine thousand, four hundred and three rooms to play in! It also has sixty-five rooms just for the Sweeping-Up-Afterwards-Brooms that it will take to clean up the party. The party starts with a big parade with Drummers and Strummers and Zummers and Plumbers. Then Dr. Derring’s Singing Herrings spell out “Happy Birthday To You” in the water.

Then, finally, it is time for the cake! The cake is made by Snookers and Snookers, The Official Katroo Happy Birthday Cake Cookers. The cake is made of gauranteed, certified strictly Grade-A peppermint cucumber sausage-paste butter.


Then to really get things rolling you shout loud:

“I am lucky to be what I am!
Thank goodness I’m not just a clam or a ham
Or a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam!
I am what I am! That’s a great thing to be!
If I say so myself, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!”

Then all your friends come and the party goes on til it ends. Then the Birthday Bird flies you home on a very soft platter right back to your bed.


This is definitely one of my top five favorite Dr. Seuss children’s books. It is just such a wonderful celebration of self. Many times throughout the book the characters shout “I AM I” or “I am lucky!” This is clearly not just a message for children, but one that everyone of any age needs to be reminded of. Most of us are indeed lucky to be who we are and we ALL deserve to love ourselves and be celebrated. What better day to celebrate who you are than on the anniversary of the day you were born!


Dedication reads:

my good friends,
The Children of San Diego County”

This is Dr. Seuss’s 2nd book to be printed in full color instead of the usual one or two colors. The first one was McElligot’s Pool which was more detailed and every other page was printed in black and white because of budget issues. Seuss simplified his use of all the colors in this book and Random House had enough of a budget at the time to print each page in color.



This image is the inside cover of the book. It also appears within the story with text inside the clouds. It is the Official Katroo Birthday Sounding-Off Place! Where you are suppose to shout

“I AM I!
I am I!
And I may not know why
But I know that I like it.
Three cheers! I AM I!”

I think, like the quote, the image makes a beautiful, grand, and yet very simple statement. It is a proclamation and celebration of the self, shouted out to the world.


This has been one of my all time favorite quotes (not only just by Seuss, but famous quotes in general) and it only gets better when put it in the context of the entire story.


Thanks for reading,
Jack St.Rebor


One comment on “Happy Birthday To You!

  1. Ariianna says:

    How do you pronounce Katroo?

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