Oh say can you Say?


Published 1979 by Random House

Tagline on the cover reads:

“Oh my brothers!
Oh my sisters!
These are


Like the last several Beginner Books that Seuss wrote during the 70’s Oh Say Can You Say? is not plot driven. It also does not have a “threw-character” that guides us from beginning to end (not Cat in the Hat in this one.) It is broken up into several tongue twisters. Most of the tongue twisters have a title that is presented in the drawing that goes with it.

The first tongue twister is titled Oh Say Can You Say. The illustration that goes with it is of a parrot in distress reading from a book of the same title. This is the same parrot that is on the cover of the actual book.

“Said a book-reading parrot named Hooey,
‘The words in this book are all phooey.
When you say them, your lips
will make slips and back flips
and your tongue may end up in Saint Looey!'”

The list of tongue twisters by title is as follows:

1. Oh Say Can You Say

2. Fresh, Fresher, Freshest

3. Dinn’s Shin

4. Bed Spreader, Bread Spreader


5. Ape Cakes, Grape Cakes

Then they are broken up by a small interlude that reads,

“Are you having trouble
in saying this stuff?
It’s really quite easy for me.
I just look in my mirror
and see what I say,
and then I just say what I see.”

6. Now let’s talk about MONEY! (which is more of a two-parter with Grox Boxes on one page and Simple Thimble/Single Shingle on the other page)

7. Eat at Skipper Zipp’s


Then a small bird in the corner says in small font:

“And if your tongue
is getting queasy
don’t give up.
The next one is EASY.”

8. The Fuddnuddlers (which is not particularly easy.)

9. Quack Quack!
(which goes together with another one about Schnacks, but is not titled separately.)

10. West Beast, East Beast

11. Pete Pats Pigs

12. Fritz Food, Fred Food

13. How to tell a Klotz from a Glotz (which comes with a drawing of two goats, one of which is the title page at the beginning of the book.)

14. What would you rather be when you grow up?

15. More about Blinn (the man from #3 Dinn’s Shin) (also has a second part about Gretchen von Schwinn)

16. Rope Soap, Hoop Soap

17. Merry Christmas Mush

18. And, Speaking of Christmas… (two tongue twisters focused on gifts for dad. The Slim Jim Swim Finn and the Bright Dwight BIrd-Flight Night-Sight Light.)


19. But Never Give Your Daddy a Walrus

And before the last tongue twister we see the very stressed book-reading parrot at the bottom of the page with the words:

“And that’s almost enough
of such stuff for one day
One more and you’re finished
Oh say can you say?…”

The last one does not have a title, but it is presented on the center of a rain filled page.

“The storm starts
when the drops start dropping.
When the drops stop dropping
then the storm starts stopping.”


This is one of the few Beginner Books to have a dedication. The dedicated reads

Lee Groo
the Enunciator”

The Enunciator was the nick name for his younger stepdaughter. I find this to be a very noteworthy dedication because his first dedication in a Beginner Book was not only also for a tongue twister book, Fox in Socks, but was also for Lee’s mother, Audrey Dimond. If you haven’t read any of my previous blogs then you’ll find it interesting to know that Seuss dedicated Fox in Socks to Audrey while he was till married to his first wife, Helen. I guess the tongue twister skill runs in the family.

I really enjoy the way Philip Nel explains, in his book Dr. Seuss: American Icon, Seuss’ use of language. “Seuss…demonstrates that language can be used for one’s amusement as well as for communication with others.” I think Oh Say Can You Say is a prime example of using language for amusement.

Seuss, himself, had this to say about one of his tongue twisters. “It can’t be done after three martinis. It’s a two-martini tongue twister.”

The goat on the mountain peak that is seen on the title page as well as in the tongue twister titled How to Tell a Klotz from a Glotz is an illustration that Seuss has perfected over many years. The Seussian goat has appeared in at least 17 illustrations by Seuss. Starting in his college years while working on the Jack-O-Lantern (Dartmouths literary-arts magazine,) and continuing on into his work for Judge and Life magazines. There are also a few mountain goats in I Can Draw It Myself.

The new title page is a bit strange to me. Rather than having the parrot, that opens and closes the book, on the cover, they put a little girl with a walrus which is from the second to last tongue twister titled But Never Give Your Daddy a Walrus. They cut out the daddy and changed the color of the walrus as well as of the little girl’s dress/ribbon. Also the walrus bleeding off the page and cover the black and white stripe binding is very odd to me.


Seuss does not often draw skeletons, but his odd curves and wobbly lines definitely make for very fun bones. I really enjoy this illustration and the fact that, even without eyes, this dinosaur has a very Seussian face.



My favorite tongue twister is the very last one, probably because it is the easiest/shortest one, but also it seems like an appropriate ending to a book of tongue twisters.


Thanks for reading,

Jack St.Rebor


2 comments on “Oh say can you Say?

  1. Mark Carter says:

    Thanks for this. I hadn’t realised that he’d put out so many Beginner Books back to back during the mid to late 70s.

  2. mamabro says:

    I will have to pick up this book for my kids. I just finished reading Scrambled Eggs super by Dr. Seuss and let me tell you it’s got some tongue twisting names in it 🙂 but my kids loved it 🙂

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