The story opens with our happy-go-lucky narrator taking a stroll through the Valley of Vung where nothing went wrong, until one day when things took a turn. First, he is looking back and not paying attention to where he’ is walking and falls and sprains his tail. Then he is so focused on looking forward that a Quilligan Quail sneaks up behind him and bites his tail!
“And I learned there are troubles
Of more than one kind
Some come from ahead
And some come from behind.”
So he decides to be extra careful and looks forward and backward at the same time.
Just when he thinks he has solved his troubles he is attacked from above and below by a Skritz and a Skrink! At that very moment, when he is surrounded by troubles a chap pulls up in a One-Wheeler Wubble pulled by a camel. The chap tells our hero about a place called Solla Sollew
“Where they never have troubles! At least, very few.”
Then he invites him to join him on his travels to Solla Sollew. They climb all night over bumpy rocks. When dawn comes the camel gets sick and they have to pull him up hill to find a doctor. Pretty quickly the Wubble chap hops on the One-Wheeler and our hero has to pull him and the camel along by himself. The chap explains:
“This is called teamwork. I furnish the brains.
You furnish the muscles, the aches and the pains.
I’ll pick the best roads, tell you just where to go
And we’ll find a good doctor more quickly, you know.”
When they find the doctor the Wubble chap stays with the camel and tells our hero that he is almost there. He just has to catch The Happy Way Bus which goes directly to Solla Sollew,
“On the banks of the beautiful River Wah-Hoo.”
When he gets to the bus stop there is a sign that explains that the bus driver ran over four nails and popped all four tires so there is no bus coming.
So, our hero continues on foot. A storm comes and he tries to get some sleep in a small shelter. Just as he finally sleeps and is dreaming about big fluffy “silk and satin marshmallow-stuffed pillows,” he is rudely awakened by a flood pushing the shelter downhill. As he’s falling he says to himself,
“Now I really don’t see
Why troubles like this have to happen to me!”
He floats for twelve days on the remains of the shelter. Luckily, someone throws him a rope and pulls him out of the water, but when he gets to the top of the rope he is confronted by General Genghis Kahn Schmitz. General Schmitz announces that there is a war and he must join the fight.
The war is against the The Perilous Poozer of Pompelmoose Pass! He is given a pea shooter and thrown into the fray. When he gets into the middle of battle he finds that there is not just one Poozer, but a whole mass of Poozers! The army retreats in defeat, but our hero is left surrounded by Poozers.
He manages to run away and jump down a pipe that says, “Vent Number Five.” This throws him into a tunnel full of random creatures and objects.
“The traffic down there
Was a mess, I must say,
With billions of birds
Going all the wrong way.
They bumped me with bikes
and they banged me with dishes.
I ran into ladders,
Beds, bottles and fishes.
I skidded on garbage
I fell in a horn.
Troubles! I wished
I had never been born!”
He finally escapes through a small trap door. He looks around and discovers he is at the beautiful River Wah-Hoo! He has finally made it to Solla Sollew!
When he gets to the gate the doorman shakes his hand and welcomes him.
“Welcome, my son, to this beautiful land.
Welcome to sweet, sunny Solla Sollew,
Where we never have troubles.
At least very few.
As a mater of fact, we have only just one.
Imagine! Just one little trouble, my son.
And this one little trouble,
As you will now see,
Is this one little trouble I have with the key…”
As the doorman tries to put the key in the lock a Key-Slapping Slippard slaps it out of his hand. It’s bad luck to kill a Slippard and they don’t know what else to do. So, the City of Solla Sollew has gone to pot! Then the doorman decides to leave Solla Sollew to go to Boola Boo Ball where there are “No troubles at all!” and he encourages our hero to come with him.
Our hero does some quick thinking and decides to go back home where he may run into all sorts of troubles…
“But I’ve bought a big bat.
I’m all ready, you see.
Now my troubles are going
To have troubles with me!”
Seuss describes this as, “not one of my more successful books,” but the message is a great one. We can’t just run away from our troubles. There is no place in the world that doesn’t have troubles, so no matter where you go, you will always run into tough times.
This is illustrated very well at the end, when our hero has a chance to go to another city that claims to have no troubles, he realizes that he’d rather be home. He decides to go back and face his troubles head on with a confident smirk on his face.
The art for the last few pages is fantastic. There is a spread with the doorman headed off right to go to the new city and our hero is on the left making a quizzical face. When you flip the page everything else is gone, it’s just a yellow background, but our hero is in the exact same place, making the exact same face. This shows that his surrounding is no longer what’s important. We see him just thinking. Then the next page is him back at home, bat in hand, ready to challenge his troubles and rather happy about it!
The dedication was to his niece and it reads:
Margaretha Dahmen Owens
and with thanks
There is a sort of fun little detail in the book. In a much earlier post I mentioned that the fish in a bowl that is famous in The Cat in the Hat actually appears in some earlier books such as If I Ran the Circus. Well, it also appears in this book! In the tunnel that our hero travels through just before he gets to Solla Sollew, among all the various creatures and objects, is a fish bowl with a single fish in it! It is also the only other object on the page, other than our hero, to be orange. Everything else is greens and purples, so the fish really stands out.
Seuss had a difficult time completing this book. He had been writing a lot of shorter and simpler Beginner Books so going back to the “big book” format was challenging. He and his wife and co-publisher/editor, Helen, were having a tough time with their marriage as well. He was beginning an affair with the woman that would eventually become his second wife (she was married at the time, as well, and had two children.) Helen wrote to a friend at the time:
“About two weeks before completion of every book, he seems to go into a tailspin, decides that nothing in the book is any good, that he can’t possibly finish it, and…I have a great job to do in keeping everything from falling in the scrap basket. I’m at my wits end to try not to be rude.”
I think it is interesting to point out that the color of the tree, camel, one-wheeler and hill side are completely different (and pastel) on the front than they are in the book (much more bold and saturated.)
The newer cover sort of jumps ahead. Instead of showing us the troubles on the road to Solla Sollew, it shows us the arrival at Solla Sollew with the doorman and key. It seems less adventurous, but the strong primary colors definitely grab my attention more than the pastel colors of the original cover.
“Then he sat and he worked with his brain and his tongue
And he bossed me around just because I was young.
He told me go left. Then he told me go right.
And that’s what he told me all day and all night.”
This quote is great, because it shows us a child’s perspective so well. They can often feel like they’re being bossed around and told to do all the work because they’re young. It doesn’t just apply to children though. Anyone who has had a supervisor can definitely relate to someone looking as if they’re just sitting around doing all the “brain work” while you feel like you’re running around doing all the actual work!
This image has such amazing contrast with the brightly colored trees on a black background. There is no white (other than the One-Wheeler) which makes the page so much more full. My eyes want to take it all in at the same time. The cool colors and little moon convey nighttime so well. The expressions on each face are so distinct; wonder/fright, content and anxiety. It’s just a great image.
Thanks for reading,