Published 1973 by Random House Inc.
The story is narrated by a character named Duckie that used to visit an old man in the Desert of Drize when he was a young boy. The old man sat on top of a prickly cactus, but had a big smile on his face. He would sing a song to Duckie about just how lucky Duckie is. The song is the rest of the story. There is no music set to it and it is read like most other Seuss books; just full of great rhymes and roll-off-the-tongue rhythm.
“When you think things are bad,
when you feel sour and blue,
when you start to get mad…
you should do what I do!
Just tell yourself, Duckie,
you’re really quite lucky!
Some people are much more…
oh, ever so much more…
oh, muchly much-much more
unlucky than you!”
From there the old man gives lots of examples of people that are much more unlucky than Duckie aka “you.” Throughout the examples the images are very important to the explanation of why they are so unlucky. The first image is of several men in uniform working on a Seussian bridge that is pure chaos. There are ladders everywhere and boards/bricks/nails being lifted every which way. There is a crane and a pulley, as well as a man standing on another man’s shoulders holding up the bulk of the bridge. It’s a great image and keeps the reader’s attention for much longer than it takes to read the text.
The next few pages follow the same pattern of massive chaotic images that spread across the page and explain why the people depicted are much more unlucky than “you”.
After that we get a few pages that are a little calmer on the eyes. One is a huge green field with a small boy named Ali Sard who has to mow his uncle’s backyard. The grass grows as he mows it and he gets paid barely anything to do it! So, on Sundays he paints flagpoles dangerously high of the ground just to pick up extra cash.
There is also the Bee-Watcher in Hawtch-Hawtch. The bee works harder when it’s being watched so there is a Bee-Watcher to stand by and stare at the bee to make sure it works harder. When the bee starts to slack people in Hawtch-Hawtch think the Bee-Watcher should be watched to make him work harder. This continues creating a huge line of Hawtch-Watchers!
Then we see some ominous lonely pages with lots of arches and darker colors. In each of these we see someone or something that is alone or left behind. First, there is Gucky Gown who lives by himself in the rundown Ruins of Ronk. Then there is a left sock that was left behind in the Kaverns of Krock with only a mouse staring on. Lastly there is a hanger hooked onto an otherwise empty line spread between two high cliff tops with a winding river disappearing into the distance. This ends the examples the old man gives.
He sums up by saying:
“That’s why I say, “Duckie!
Don’t grumble! Don’t stew!
Some critters are much-much,
oh, ever so much-much
so muchly much-much more unlucky than you!”
And the boy joins the old man on a prickly cactus with a big smile on his face.
This book is very unique in the sense that barely any of the unluckiness is actually explained in the text. The text is rather simple and not very descriptive, like:
“And the Brothers Ba-zoo.
The poor Brothers Ba-zoo!
Suppose your hair grew
like theirs happened to do!
You think you’re unlucky…?
I’m telling you, Duckie,
some people are muchly,
oh, ever so muchly,
muchly more-more-more unlucky than you!”
The image that goes with it shows an endless line of old men whose beards become the man in front of them’s hair. This means, that they are all connected by a long line of hair/beard that is only broken up by their faces. The text itself would not leave much of an impression of why the Brothers Ba-zoo are unlucky, but it leads the reader to look at the image for an explanation. This makes the book a GREAT book to read out loud to a class of young students. The teacher reads the text which peaks the audience’s interest. Then the teacher turns the book to reveal the amazingly, fully-colored, full-spread images so that the students lean in because they have been anticipating why the Brother Ba-zoo are so unlucky.
The images go from chaotic and full of busyness to empty, lonely spreads. This also helps with reading to children, because it grabs their attention early on and then winds them down as the book comes to a close. The last two examples are of inanimate objects that are unlucky, where as, the rest of the book gives examples of people that are unlucky. I find this very interesting, but have not been able to connect it to any philosophy that Seuss may have been trying to symbolize.
The connected beards from the Brothers Ba-zoo page are a common theme in Seuss’ previous work. In his short term comic called Hejji there are two goats connected by a beard. In his feature length live-action film The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T there are two roller-skating guards also connected by a beard. Even in his political cartoons he depicts “Nazism” and “the America First Movement” as “The men with the Siamese Beard.”
As you can see in the images in this post, Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? is printed in full color. In The Lorax, which was printed just prior to this book, there is also full color. At first it feels like there is some aspect of Seussian art missing in these books, because they are not the usual yellow, red and teal of the bulk of his work. In The Lorax, color is so important to the feel of “clean” versus “polluted” and by this point Seuss was so popular that Random House could afford to publish his books in full color. The feeling of “busyness” versus “loneliness” in Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? is furthered by the use of color. At the beginning there are lots of different colors used in tiny detailed spaces, where as, at the end of the book there are large expanses of empty space and solid color. Not only the amount of colors, but also the shade/tone of the colors helps set the mood for each particular page. It makes one wonder how different his earlier books would feel if they were printed in full color, but that is best left untampered with.
The dedication is very personalized. It is in a font meant to look like handwriting and has an adorable little smiling bird-creature accompanying the words:
Phyllis Jackson was Seuss’ longtime agent of over 30 years. She died suddenly of cardiac arrest four years after this dedication in March of 1977. Seuss was shocked by her death and did little more than sit in a chair for three days after he heard of it. He attempted to make peace with his grief by writing a short verse titled “How Long Is Long” and dedicated it to her “with all my love.”
How Long Is Long?
“I’ll be seein’ ya,” I said.
And I said, “So long!”
When you say So Long
it’s not usually too long…
I guess I won’t be seein’ ya.”
This image is so fun! It’s like a Where’s Waldo book; so much to see! I love the guy poking the other guy with his cane!
“Think they work you too hard…?
Think of poor Ali Sard!
He has to mow grass in his uncle’s back yard
and it’s quick-growing grass
and it grows as he mows it.
The faster he mows it, the faster he grows it.
And all that his stingy old uncle will pay
for his shoving that mower around in that hay
is the piffulous pay of two Dooklas a day.
And Ali can’t live on such piffulous pay!”
I really enjoy the rhythm and the rhyme of “mows it” and “grows it”. The combination of “piffulous pay” is also just super fun. My mouth just enjoyed reading this quote the most.
Thanks for reading,