Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Oh,_the_Places_You'll_Go

Published in 1990 by Random House

Review by Booklist:

“Writers often tend to mellow in their later years, but fortunately Dr. Seuss seems just as cantankerous and quirky as ever. Life may be a ‘Great Balancing act’ but through it all ‘there’s fun to be done.'”

Review by Gannett News Service:

“Rangy, wise and wonderfully witty…This may well be a summing up on his part, his farewell with a flourish.”

SUMMARY:

little-boyOh, the Places You’ll Go begins with “Congratulations!” It is a celebration of accomplishment and exciting things to come. The first illustration is on an all white page with only a small young boy dressed in yellow walking confidently forward towards the next page. He is described only as “you.” For the next several pages he is always seen headed to the right, steadily approaching his future.

“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

dsc_0009Our hero decides not to go down some “not-so-good streets.” In fact, he doesn’t like any of the streets around him so he heads straight out of town where:

“It’s opener there
in the wide open air.”

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Then things start to become a bit more Seussian! Our hero starts to approach strange new places with Horton-looking elephants. He is, once again, headed toward the next page with a confident steady stride.

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“Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.”

The next spread of pages grabs the reader’s attention with bold solid stripes taking over the pages in bright colors! For the first time we see our hero with his back to us, looking in wonder just as the reader is. ohtheplacesyoullgo_ipad_screen1large-642x481

“You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.”

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Soon our hero is in the lead with all the other balloons close behind. The hills are colorful square patches rolling off into the distance. Then Seuss slams on the breaks. Our hero’s balloon is stuck on a branch and he’s watching everyone else fly by, leaving him behind with a look of surprise on his face. The hills are now a somber blue.

places“You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.”

Then the background gets dark and squiggly! Our hero is on the ground, still moving forward, but much more hesitantly. His surroundings are lumpy and droopy in dull blues and purples.

“And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.”

Things become even stranger and more unfamiliar to our hero. He is presented with a mishmash of curvy arches and doorways in different colors. None of them are marked and there are no clear paths.hqdefaultOur hero chooses a direction, but he runs down it at full speed and becomes even more lost in an even stranger place. Then he arrives at The Waiting Place where everything is stagnant because it is a place…

“…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
Or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or a Another Change.
Everyone is just waiting.”

waitingSomehow our hero breaks free! The next page is colorful again and big and loud! There are several strange musical instruments all being played at full blast!

oh-the-places-you-ll-go-dr-seuss-screenshot-3“Somehow you’ll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.”

Then the elephants are back in full numbers with banners held high. Our hero sits on one of their heads once again confidently heading towards the future!

imagesHe plays wild Seussian sports with crazy nets and hoops and other players popping up out of the ground!

“Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be,
with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.”

“Except when they don’t.
Because, sometimes, they won’t.

Now our hero plays alone with a single ball and an old tattered hoop. He is on a crazy, rickety, old Seussian-structured house. The colors are dull and our hero has no smile.

“I’m afraid that sometimes
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.”

Once again, our hero has his back to us as he faces another strange archway, but now it’s much darker and ominous with large eyes staring at him and Tim Burton like trees on a flat landscape.pg3

“All Alone!
Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something
you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance
you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.”

Now for the first time our hero is facing back towards the rest of the book rather than forward toward the next page. He is in a small row boat on endless dark waters with only large wailing creatures around him. The blue of the water is heavily contrasted by the large orange cave on the next page. Our hero now pats a vicious looking creature on the nose. He is back to facing what is coming.

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“On and on you will hike.
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.”

Then our hero is seen in a crazy mess of birds walking on each others’ heads. Each row alternates going left and then right. All the ones going forward toward the right have smiles on their faces with their beaks held high. The birds going back toward the left are depressed with slumping posture. Our hero is turned around yet again and headed backwards. (Image can be seen in the HISTORY section of this post.)

“You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
Step with great care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act. “

Our hero gets facing the right direction again at the very tip of the bottom right corner ready to take on any challenge. He is pulling a rope with a great mountain on wheels trailing behind him.oh-the-places-youll-go-dr-seuss.jpg?w=620

“And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

The final page ends just as the beginning started. With our hero in the exact same pose on an all white page confidently headed toward the future.

little-boy
“Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”

ABOUT:

The Morgan and Morgan biography describes this book as:

“A collection of scattered ideas tied together with the theme of hope.’

I couldn’t help but comment on the main character’s position on the page in relation to the rest of his surrounding. In the summary above I constantly refer to him facing toward the right. I think this was a very intentional choice on Seuss’ part. We read left to right so having the main character headed toward the right keeps the flow of the story moving so that we are excited to see where he ends up when we turn the page.

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The few moments that he is not turned to the right make those pages all the more powerful. When his back is turned to us we, as readers, spend a little extra time marveling at the rest of the page as he does. When he is facing backward toward the left we hesitate to turn the page in case we lose him forcing us to spend a somber moment reflecting.

Reading Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is like climbing into a car with Seuss behind the wheel. He drives the story forwards, slows it down, speeds it back up, and even slams on the breaks. This is done not only through the physical position of the hero, but also by the rhythm of his poetry, as well as, with color theory and line movement.

It can definitely be said that Seuss does this in all of his books. His ability to manipulate the reader’s emotion into not only wanting, but needing to flip the page is why he is such a successful writer. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is merely a culmination of all his tricks of story telling.

We can see his use of color theory in the contrast between the gloomy dark blues and purples he uses when the hero is lost compared to the bright orange cave when he is ready to face up to his challenges. We see it again when there are soft pastels filling out the page as he heads gleefully toward his future in a hot air balloon, but then the page is almost void of color as he gets hung up on a bare black tree with only deep blue hills below him.

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Through all of these aspects of story telling Seuss plays with our heartstrings in a way that reaches children as well as adults of any age. This story is a heartfelt adventure that each of us goes through as a human being and also one that we go through several times in our lives. Whether we go to a new school or a new job or move to a new city, every time an aspect of our lives changes we go through this story in some way. We try, we succeed, we lead, we follow, we fail, we wait, we try again. This repetition in our own lives makes this a book worth reading over and over.

HISTORY:

It seems odd, but there is no dedication. Very few of Seuss’ “big books” do not have a dedication. I like to think it is because this book is dedicated to himself and all of his previous work as a whole.

Seuss explained the title by saying:

‘When I went to college it was a campy thing to say ‘Oh, the places you’ll go! The people you’ll meet!'”

When Oh, the Places You’ll Go! was published it went straight to the top of New York Times’ adult best-seller list and stayed on it for two years. Seuss said,

“This proves it! I no longer write for children I write for people!”

Jim Henson made an appointment with Seuss to make a video adaptation of Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, but Henson died two days before they were supposed to meet. He was fifty-three years old.

Seuss also made plans with Tri-Star Productions to turn it into a full length feature film. Although it was never realized he did start to write extra material including this song:

“Searching deep in darkened places,
Reaching into vacant spaces,
I touch only shadow faces…
Where are you?
Empty caves in endless mountains,
Dusty, dry, deserted fountains…
Pathless, groping, I move hoping
Where are you?
Past songless birds on leafless trees
Cross waveless oceans, silent seas
Through fumbling nights that find no day,
I move and try to find my way…”

In 1975 Dr. Seuss wrote a verse for the New York Times entitled The Economic Situation Clarified: A prognostic re-evaluation.

“As our graph shows. Trends are trending.
This is good. Yet, nevertheless,
the destination of the trendings
is not simple to assess.

As of now, the Uppers are upping
and the Downers are droobling down
excepting on alternate Thursdays
when it works the other way round.

And there occasionally are occasions
when some Upper comes a cropper
and bottoms out at the bottom.
Then…
some Bottomer is the Topper.

Consequently, on the other hand,
I believe this can be said:
you’ll be wise if you step gently
whilst you tread on your neighbor’s head.”

A footnote at the bottom of the verse reads:

“Dr. Seuss — whose grown-up name is Theodor Seuss Geisel — says it has been 17 years since he last addressed himself to adults, and does so now because he is “plain worried about the economy.”

Seuss drew the image below on the left for that verse. The image on the right is from Oh, The Places You’ll Go! published fifteen years later. It seems Seuss used the exact same image, but replaced one of the birds with our hero and added some color.

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Even before the Economic Situation Clarified Seuss had characters walking on each others’ heads. The following image is from If I Ran the Circus which was published in 1956, thirty-four years before Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

photos089The newer cover bugs me, as usual, because it uses an image from the inside of the book rather than the original cover’s image. The original image of “you” on top of a rainbow cone-shaped mountain (seen at the top of this post) is not found anywhere else in the book so when it is taken off of the cover it is basically a piece of art just completely removed from the story!

oh_the_places_you_ll_goFAVORITE QUOTE:

“Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you. “

This quote breaks my heart every time I read it. I’m all teary-eyed just typing it out. It is so beautifully honest and something that we need to hear and accept more often as we grow up, so that it isn’t quite so shocking when it inevitably happens. If we are prepared for it then we can accept it and move forward.

FAVORITE IMAGE:

My favorite image is definitely The Waiting Place. It’s like a Where’s Waldo page of depression. I love all the detail and I don’t think there is any other page in all of Dr. Seuss’ work that has so many human figures in Seussian style.

The Waiting Place

Thanks for reading,
Jack St. Rebor

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You’re Only Old Once!

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Published 1986 by Random House

Back Cover reads:

“Is this a children’s book?
Well…not immediately.
You buy a copy for your child now
and you give it to him on his 70th birthday.”

Review: “A charming guide through a daunting maze of geriatric medicine which Geisel knows well.”

SUMMARY:

The story opens with an old man sitting next to a fish tank and reading a magazine. The anonymous narrator tells the reader:

“One day you will read
in the National Geographic
of a faraway land
with no smelly bad traffic.”

When the page is flipped the book burst with Seussian imagination as the reader looks at the land of Fotta-fa-Zee where everyone feels healthy and fine even though they are one hundred and three, because the air is so good and they chew nuts from the Tutt-a-Tutt Tree.

“This gives strength to their teeth,
it gives length to their hair,
and they live without doctors,
with nary a care.”

The next flip of the page brings us back to the old man, but he is smaller and we see more of his setting. He is in a clinic waiting room and their are signs that read “Optoglymics” and “Dermoglymics”. From behind a wall, a disembodied arm gestures for him to come. The text tells the reader this is “the Golden Years Clinic on Century Square” and that the old man is there for “Spleen Readjustment and Muffler Repair.”

Now the old man goes through a round of tests. The first one is an eye exam. His head is held up to a very Seussian machine that projects the words:

HAVE YOU ANY IDEA
HOW MUCH MONEY
THESE TESTS ARE
COSTING
YOU?

Then he goes through line of questioning about his body parts and his grandparent’s body parts or if his cousins suffered from ailments like, “Bus Driver’s Blight, Chimney Sweep’s Stupor, or Prune Picker’s Plight?”

Next the old man is standing in a large tub with no shirt as a doctor stairs at his belly and a large sign in the back reads Good, Bad and So-So. For our hero the arrow points at So-So. When the page is flipped he is in the same machine, but now he has no pants and there are two more doctors looking at him from all sides. The arrow now points at Bad.

Now the old man is back in the waiting room with the fish, named Norval, but this time he has a rob and slippers on.

“What those Oglers have learned
they’re not ready to tell.
Clinicians don’t spout
their opinions pell-mell.”

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Yet again, another disembodied arm gestures for our hero to come. Now he gets his ear checked with a bellows blown through one ear and a candle held against the other. Then the doctors bring in all sorts of noisy items including Seussian instruments, a cow, a parrot, an old grandfather clock and a party noise-maker.

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Then it’s back to the hall with Norval the fish. This time a man with a wheelchair comes to collect our hero.

“With a great swish and great swank.
a wheelchair will come!
You’ve gained status and rank!
And Whelden the Wheeler will say with great pride:
‘You have qualified, sir.
You are now certified
as a VIP Case.
You’re entitled to ride!
Through thin and through thick
I’ll be at your back side.'”

Then Whelden takes the old man through Stethoscope Row where he tells our hero that Doctors Schmidt, Smoot, Sinatra, Sylvester, and Fonz won several metals in the Internal Organs Olympics last year.

Next the old man is tested for allergies. The illustration shows him on a sort of treadmill with a glass bowl over his head and two cups of water on the palms of his hands with all sorts of jars filled with all sorts of liquids all around him. Whelden the Wheeler is seen waiting patiently in the corner.

The next Seussian machine we see is basically a bed of nails on a spring attached to some sort of motor that is plugged into the wall. This time Doctor Van Ness is testing the old man’s stress levels. Then he is sent to Doctor Von Eiffel.

“Dietician Von Eiffel controls the Wuff-Whiffer,
our Diet-Devising Computerized Sniffer,
on which you just simply lie down in repose
and sniff at good food as it goes past your nose.
From caviar souffle to caribou roast,
from pemmican patties to terrapin toast,
he’ll find out by Sniff-Scan the foods you like most.

And when that guy finds out
what you like,
you can bet it
won’t be on your diet.
From here on, forget it!”

Medical-test-cartoon

Then Whelden the Wheeler wheels the old man to the New Wing! To see several doctors:

“McGuire and McPherson and Blinn and Ballew
and Timpkins and Tompkins and Diller and Drew,
Fitzsimmons, Fitzgerald, and Fitzpatrick, too,
all of whom will prescribe a prescription for you.”

The next spread of pages shows the old man at a table covered in several different kinds of pills. There is a machine called the Pill Drill that instructs him on the long list of pills he has to take.

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“This small white pill is what I munch
at breakfast and right after lunch.
I take the pill that’s kelly green
before each meal and in between.
these loganberry-colored pills
I take for early morning chills.
I take the pill with zebra stripes
to cure my early evening gripes.
These orange-tinted ones, of course,
I take to cure my charley horse.

I take three blues at half past eight
to slow my exhalation rate.
On alternate nights at nine p.m.
I swallow pinkies. Four of them.
The reds, which make my eyebrows strong,
I eat like popcorn all day long.
The speckled browns are what I keep
beside my bed to help me sleep
This long flat one is what I take
if I should die before I wake.”

Last comes the paperwork. There is a long conveyer belt that has endless amounts of little white papers that our hero has to sign so that he can be properly billed. Whelden the Wheeler stands by with extra pens. Finally the old man just needs to locate his clothes and he can be on his way. Now the reader sees the last page which is similar to the first page, but the old man is on his feet this time and headed toward the “OUT” sign.

“And you’ll know
once your necktie’s
back under your chin
and Norval has waved you
Godspeed with his fin,
you’re in pretty good shape
for the shape you are in!”

ABOUT:

You’re Only Old Once! was inspired by Seuss’ many trips to the doctor in the later part of his life. In one waiting room he actually sat by a fish, that he named Norval. For months Seuss had been:

“…sitting in waiting rooms being bored. I began sketching what I thought was going to happen to me for the next hour and a half. I had no idea of doing a book. I just began drawing hospital machinery. In the interest of commerce, I wrote a happy ending. The other ending is unacceptable.”

His wife Audrey had convinced him to cut out some of the more serious health issues that he was actually dealing with at the time. She wanted the book to stay light and funny and Seuss agreed. He stated that some of the things he was going through were “not funny, no matter how you much you disguise it.” Perhaps that is why Seuss chose a pastel pallet for this book. One reviewer described it as, “round and billowing, in pink, blue, green and yellow, as if sculpted from ice cream.”

The book starts out with a very Seussian land of made-up creatures and names, but then becomes much more personal as you realize it is a book about Seuss’ life. He also has the narrator refer to the main character as “you” and the title says “you’re” which makes the book even more personal, because it is a telling of the reader’s own future.

He considered this book as a protest against unnecessary and expensive procedures. He said he was, “fed up of a social life consisting entirely of doctors.”

HISTORY:

The dedication reads:

“With Affection for
and
Affliction with
the Members of the
Class of 1925

You’re Only Old Once! was published on Seuss’ 82nd birthday on March 2nd 1986.

Everyone at Random House Publishing agreed that it should be handled by the adult division, but Seuss felt the drawings and color still made it a classic Seuss children’s book. Seuss used his influence to keep the book in the juvenile department, but allowed the adult trade book department to market it. A new executive thought it was a “turn-off” and that “no one wanted to think about being old.” To prepare audience for what was inside the tagline “For Obsolete Children” was added and the Book of the Month club announced it as a book for “ages 95 and down.”

Seuss’ main doctor was a woman named Ruth Grobstein. He promised her there would be no female doctors. The biography that I got this information from (Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel by Judith and Neil Morgan) states that there are no female doctors in the book because of this reason, but on the 13th page there is clearly a female character (whether it is a doctor or a nurse I’m not sure) looking up at the old man standing with no pants on in a metal tube.

An incomplete stanza shows Seuss’ “fill-in-the-blank” writing style:

“I remember hearing my grandfather speak of a (blank)
that is old at the end of one week
And a Nutchworm that’s old at the end of an hour
and after three minutes a (something) feels sour
(BLANK BLANK something)…reckoned
There were germs who get ancient in only one second.”

The New York Times reported You’re Only Old Once! as an adult nonfiction, where it become number one. In other publications it was listed as fiction.

Seuss received a fan letter from a woman that shares his birthday. She said in the letter that she had read You’re Only Old Once! to her husband that was recovering from chemotherapy. She “acted it out and showed him the pictures, and he chuckled and I knew I owed you a debt.” Seuss considered this letter “one of the most beautiful letters” he’d ever received.

FAVORITE QUOTE:

“Your escape plans have melted!
You haven’t a chance,
for the next thing you know,
both your socks and your pants
and your drawers and your shoes
have been lost for the day.
The Oglers have blossomed
like roses in May!
And silently, grimly, they ogle away.”

FAVORITE IMAGE:

I didn’t just post this image to show that there is a female doctor in the book, but I also just really enjoy the structure of this image. The quote I chose as my favorite goes along with this image. I think it just shows the height of uncomfortableness that comes with being inspected by doctors.

oglers

Thanks for reading,

Jack St. Rebor

The Butter Battle Book

Butter Battle Book

Published 1984 by Random House

New York Times Book Review: “Thank you, Dr. Seuss, for attempting this cautionary tale…[Dr. Seuss’] bleakest book.”

SUMMARY:

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The book starts “on the last day of summer, ten hours before fall.” At first it is narrated by a young boy. He tells the reader that his grandfather took him out to “the Wall.” Then his grandfather takes over as the narrator as he tells his grandson (and the reader) about the conflict between the Yooks and the Zooks. The grandfather and grandson are both Yooks, on the other side of the wall live the Zooks. The only difference between them seems to be that the Yooks eat their bread butter side up while the Zooks eat it butter side down.

“So you can’t trust a Zook who spreads bread underneath!
Every Zook must be watched!
He has kinks in his soul!
That’s why, as a youth, I made watching my goal,
watching Zooks for the Zook-Watching Border Patrol!”

Grandpa then goes back in time to tell his grandson about when he started working for the Zook-Watching Border Patrol. Back then the wall between the two groups was much smaller, but he had a Snick-Berry Switch to keep him safe. However, one day, a Zook named VanItch came along with a slingshot and broke the Snick-Berry Switch!

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Grandpa headed to the Chief Yookeroo who was the leader of the watch. He told the “Boys in the Back Room” to come up with a triple-sling jigger to outdo the Zooks. The triple sling-jigger successfully scared off VanItch, but only for a little while. He soon came back with a Jigger-Rock Snatchem which catches the rocks from the triple-sling jigger and shoots them right back!

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Grandpa reported back to the Chief Yookeroo that he had failed, but the Chief was not disheartened. He realized the sling shot was too old-fashioned.

“All we need is some newfangled kind of a gun.
My Boys in the Back Room have already begun
to think up a walloping whizz-zinger one!
My Bright Boys are thinking.
They’re on the right track.
They’ll think one up quick
and we’ll send you right back!”

They sent him back with a fancier hat and a gun called the “Kick-a-Poo Kid loaded with Poo-a-Doo Powder and ants’ eggs and bees’ legs and dried-fried clam chowder.” They also trained a spaniel to caring the gun around. As he headed to the wall with the gun-toting dog everyone cheered and yelled their support:

“Fight! Fight for the Butter Side Up!
Do or die!”

This time, however, VanItch was one step ahead. When Grandpa got the wall VanItch was waiting with a Eight-Nozzled, Elephant-Toted Boom-Blitz! Its ammo is high-explosive sour cherry stone pits!

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Feeling rather low and beaten, Grandpa headed back to headquarters, but before he got there the Butter-Up Band marched towards him with drums pounding and flags held high! The Right-Side-Up Song Girls sang:

“Oh, be faithful!
Believe in thy butter!”

With his spirits raised, Grandpa headed back to headquarters where Chief Yookeroo promoted him to general! He got a fancy new uniform.

“The Big War is coming. You’re going to begin it!
And what’s more, this time you are certain to win it.”

This time he headed to the wall in a machine called the Utterly Sputter.

“This machine was so modern, so frightfully new,
no one knew quite exactly just what it would do!”

As he got closer he saw VanItch in the same machine threatening to use it as soon as the Yooks make a move. Grandpa headed straight back home where he found the Butter-Up Band depressed and despondent. When he went to headquarters Chief Yookeroo was ready with the next weapon. This time it wasn’t a big machine, but a small egg like bomb called THE BITSY BIG-BOY BOOMEROO!

“You just run to the wall like a nice little man.
Drop this bomb on the Zooks just as fast as you can.
I have ordered all Yooks to stay safe underground
while the Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo is around.”

As he ran to the wall Grandpa saw all the Yooks heading underground.

“They were all bravely marching,
with banners aflutter,
down a hole! For their country!
And Right-Side-Up Butter!”

Then our story comes back to present day and Grandpa runs into his grandson and takes him to the wall to see history in the making! The young boy takes over the narration again and describes his Grandpa jumping up onto the wall with the bomb in hand. VanItch was there as well!

“The Boys in HIS Back Room had made him one too!
In his fist was another Big-Boy Boomeroo!”

The story ends with Grandpa and VanItch holding identical bombs toward each other representing the Yooks and Zooks ready to drop them at any moment. The boy calls out to his grandpa:

“‘Grandpa!’ I shouted. ‘Be careful! oh, gee!
Who’s going to drop it?
Will you…?Or will he…?’
‘Be patient,’ said Grandpa. ‘We’ll see.
We will see…”

The end.

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ABOUT:

The Butter Battle Book was written during the Cold War that the United States was having with the Soviet Union and it is clear that that theme is reflected in its pages. Seuss adds a visual difference between the two sides of the wall by having the Yooks in blue and the Zooks in orange. In color theory this is very intentional, because blue and orange are opposites on the the color wheel.

There was some controversy when it was published. Some readers felt that it was anti Ronald Reagan and the nuclear arms race. One mother wrote to Random House stating:

“How dare a well-respected publishing firm…the most blatant form of brainwashing I have ever encountered…I had long respected the Dr. Seuss books as light, whimsical and enjoyable…”

Random House responded with:

“children are going to have to start thinking and using the brain that God gave them. The Butter Battle Book takes no sides. It simply presents the arms build-up as it is right now. You call this brainwashing. We call your response fear of ideas.”

Some readers found the unresolved ending specifically upsetting. Random House responded to these complaints with:

” If there were a happy ending in reality, then there would have been no need to write this book…The book tells the truth and the truth is our only hope…[It] is the most important contribution Dr. Seuss has made in his many years of giving children something to think about.”

Seuss responded simply with, “I want people to think.” He tried to explain, “I’m not antimilitary…I’m just anti crazy.” He felt that it was “the best book I’ve ever written.” It reminded him of his old political cartoons with PM magazine. There was an in-house memo sent around to the Random House Publishing sales people that stated that The Butter Battle Book was “probably the most important book Dr. Seuss has ever created.”

HISTORY:

The Butter Battle Book is dedicated to Seuss’ second wife and reads, “For Audrey, with love.” This is the fourth Dr. Seuss children’s book to be dedicated to Audrey Diamond. The other three were The Lorax, I Can Lick Thirty Tigers Today, and (before they were married) Fox in Socks.

While the book was still in the works it came up against several small challenges. First the cover, Seuss originally had just a couple of the Right-Side Up Song Girls waving their banners on the cover, but no one liked it. Suggestions were made for a more confrontational image of the two characters holding the bomb, but in the end the original cover was used. Then the title was questioned. A press release announced the title as The Yooks and the Zooks which felt more Seussian to some, but Seuss’ original title won in the end. There was originally going to be blurb on the cover that would have read:

“Surprisingly, wonderfully, the case for total disarmament has been brilliantly made by our acknowledged master of nonsense, Dr. Seuss…Only a genius of the ridiculous could possibly deal with the cosmic and lethal madness of the nuclear arms race…He has done the world a service.”

Seuss and his publishers agreed that the blurb would turn away parents so it was cut from the cover.

During the final steps of publishing this book Seuss underwent neck surgery for cancer that had spread to his lymph node. He was left with a neck deformity that was luckily covered by most of his clothing. He was on heavy medication for a couple months, but by March (his birthday) he was apparently cancer free.

1984 was a big year for Seuss, not only was this book published that year and more specifically on March 2nd which was Seuss’ 80th birthday, but Seuss also received a Pulitzer Prize

“for his special contribution over nearly half a century to the education and enjoyment of America’s children and their parents.”

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The words of the book are extremely strong and represent some of Seuss’ best writing, but the drawings still lack some of classic Seuss style. The machines and backgrounds are much stronger than some of the Beginner Books written around the same time, but the characters are still weak and the lines are scratchy.

A movie version was released five years later in 1989. It is filled with a bit more fluff and several songs to make it longer.

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FAVORITE QUOTE:

My favorite quote is a bit hard to explain. The first part of it is on one page and then you have to flip to the next page to read the second part. The placement of the quote is part of what I love about it.

On the first page the Yook grandpa has a determined look and is headed up the hill with a new weapon to meet VanItch. The quote reads:

“With our heads help up high
while everyone cheered and their cheers filled the sky:
‘Fight! Fight for the Butter Side Up!
Do or die!”

–Flip the page and see VanItch with a massively huge gun on the backs of two elephants and the Yook grandpa’s face is crestfallen and small—

“Well…
We didn’t do.
And we didn’t quite die.”

FAVORITE IMAGE:

I love the height of the wall, the beautiful landscape in the background, the grandpa and grandson, and in the middle of it a large propaganda poster. It’s just so well laid out.

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Thanks for reading,

Jack St.Rebor

Hunches in Bunches

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Published 1982 by Random House

SUMMARY:

The story opens with a young boy sitting and twiddling his fingers trying to think of what to do. He has the fidgets and can’t make up his mind.

“It’s awfully awfully awful
when you can’t make up your mind!”

hunch01He starts to list the many things that he could do, like play football or go skating or climb a tree. He calls all of these things hunches, but he gets so many hunches that he doesn’t want to pick one and find out that it’s the wrong one.

On the next page, and for the rest of the story, each hunch takes on a physical appearance. They’re all different looking humanoid-Seussian-creatures and they all have big glove-like fuzzy hats on their heads.

The first hunch to appear is a Happy Hunch that tries to lead him outside to play, but then a Homework Hunch rolls in and tells him he can’t play outside. Luckily, a Better Hunch comes along and hanks the hat off of the Homework Hunch.

Just as he’s about to go off with the Better Hunch a Sour Hunch tells him his bike is rusting and he needs to go oil it. Then a Very Odd Hunch asks him if he needs to go to the bathroom.

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Then an unseen Hunch says,

“‘That mind of yours,’ I heard him say,
‘is frightfully ga-flupped.
Your mind is murky-mooshy!
Will you make it up? Or won’t you?
If you won’t, you are a wonter!
Do you understand? Or don’t you?
If you don’t, you are a donter.
You’re a canter if you can’t.
I would really like to help you.
But you’re hopeless. So I shan’t.”

Next a Spookish Hunch shows up pointing four different ways, but our hero is smart enough not to follow that hunch, because he knows if he does he will probably end up on an dead-end road in West Gee-Hossa-Flat!

He avoids the Four-Way Hunch, but quickly falls into the trap off following a Nowhere Hunch.

“Everybody sometimes does it.
Even me. And even you.
I followed him in circles
till we wore the rug right through.”

Luckily, an Up Hunch blows by and tells him to stop going around and try going up! So our hero follows the Up hunch into some fresh air, but when he gets to the top he is met by a Down Hunch that tells him never to trust an Up Hunch and instead to go back down. When he goes back down he is surrounded by all different kinds of Wild hunches throwing, “crunchy hunchy punches.”

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Then a Super Hunch yells,

“Make up your mind! Get it done!
Only you can make your mind up! You’re the one and only one!”

Our hero realizes that he alone can’t make up his mind. To get it done it’ll take two of him! Or maybe even three or four! It actually takes even more of him. They all yell and shove and talk all of the hunches over until they decide what to do.

Finally, he decides to follow a Munch Hunch and goes to the kitchen to have six hot dogs for lunch.

HISTORY:

Hunches in Bunches is the first big book in 9 years since Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are. The illustrations are stronger and feel more classic; there are different patterns on each individual hunches clothing, the stairs that the Up Hunch takes are perfectly and precariously placed. It is also the only Big book without a dedication.

It was strange to read the words “video games” in a Dr. Seuss book, but it is his first book written in the 80s. Hand shapes on hats have been seen before in the only live action Dr. Seuss movie made in his life time called The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (not based on a book.)

The message of the book is to kids (video games vs homework, going down town with a friend vs a parental voice telling you to go to the bathroom) but, like all Dr. Seuss books, the message is still relevant to adults. It can be more specifically applied to people in their 20s and 30s trying to decide what direction to go in their lives, but we all have Dead-End Hunches, Up Hunches, Down Hunches etc. The ending brings us back to the child-like thought of just simply going to get something to eat. It is unexpected after a long build up, but it is something we can all relate to (we all need to eat and take a break from deciding what we’re doing all the time. )

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FAVORITE QUOTE:

I think this quote sums up the main message of the book. We all have scattered thoughts sometimes and can’t decide what to do, but no one can make up our minds for us.

“‘That mind of yours,’ I heard him say,
‘is frightfully ga-flupped.
Your mind is murky-mooshy!
Will you make it up? Or won’t you?
If you won’t, you are a wonter!
Do you understand? Or don’t you?
If you don’t, you are a donter.
You’re a canter if you can’t.
I would really like to help you.
But you’re hopeless. So I shan’t.”

FAVORITE IMAGE:

I love this perilous looking stack of stone steps. Perfect example of Seussian structure.

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Thanks for reading,

Jack St.Rebor

Oh say can you Say?

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Published 1979 by Random House

Tagline on the cover reads:

“Oh my brothers!
Oh my sisters!
These are
TERRIBLE TONGUE TWISTERS!”

SUMMARY:

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

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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

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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.)

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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.”

HISTORY:

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

“For
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.
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FAVORITE IMAGE:

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.

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FAVORITE QUOTE:

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.

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Thanks for reading,

Jack St.Rebor

I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!

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Published in 1978 by Random House

SUMMARY:

I Can Read With My Eye’s Shut is narrated by that delightfully mischievous Cat in the Hat, but he is being very educational, while still whimsical, in this particular book.

He starts out simply by saying,

“I can read
in red.

I can read
in blue.

I can read in
pickle color
too.”

He continues to name different ways he can read, including in a circle and upside down.

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Then he states that he can read Mississippi even with his eyes shut! Not only Mississippi but Indianapolis and Hallelujah, too! We quickly learn that reading with his eyes shut makes the Cat in the Hat’s eyebrows get read hot and that it frizzles out his hat.

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He points out that when you read with your eyes open you can read much faster.

“And when I keep them open
I can read with much more speed.
You have to be a speedy reader
’cause there’s so, so much to read!”

Then he starts to list the things you can read about, like trees, and bees and knees! Or a combination of these words. You can also read about anchors and ants and crocodile pants!

“Young cat! If you keep
your eyes open enough,
oh, the stuff you will learn!
The most wonderful stuff!”

Even more things you can learn about are fishbones, and wishbones, and trombones! Then of course Seuss adds in some more made up creatures like Foo-Foo the Snoo.

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“There are
so many things
you can learn about.
BUT…you’ll miss
the best things
if you keep
your eyes shut.”

Then to make reading and learning even more wonderful The Cat in the Hat points out the many places you’ll go and things you can learn.

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“The more that you read,
the more things you will know.
The more that you learn,
the more places you’ll go.”

You can learn how to make money, or donuts or kangaroo collars. You can learn to play the Hut-Zut (but only with your eyes open.) The full page spread is of signs pointing all different directions with all different kinds of locations (including Oz). He leaves the reader with this last note:

“SO…
that’s why I tell you
to keep your eyes wide.
Keep them wide open…
at least on one side.

The final image is of The Cat in the Hat and the young cat sharing a book, winking at each other.

HISTORY:

Unlike most Beginner Books there is actually a dedication that reads:

“For
David Worthen, E.G.*
*(Eye Guy)

As I’ve stated in the other recent post, Seuss was having eye sight issues which was the cause for his scratching drawings and why he made so many Beginner Books in a row rather than any larger books. With this in mind he wrote a book about reading and what you miss out on if you read with your eyes shut. The dedication is to his ophthalmologist.

The second to last page has lots and lots of signs leading all different directions. One of the signs says:

“SALINA
Kansas
Birthplaces
of
Curtis A. Abel”

This is a reference to one of Ted’s many friends from Oxford that he added in just for fun.

The newer cover is surprisingly similar to the older cover. It is still a yellow background and The Cat in the Hat reading a green book with his eyes closed while the young cat looks on with his eyes open. The newer one just has a bit more motion to it because they’re walking.


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FAVORITE IMAGE:

My favorite image is actually the first page. Including the text, I just think it’s a great layout and super fun and I love the silly glasses.

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FAVORITE QUOTE:

“You can learn about SAD…
and GLAD…
and MAD!”

I really enjoy that Seuss not only includes objects you can learn about, and jobs you can learn about, but that he also includes emotions. So much of the reading children do is educational and instructional, it’s nice to remind young readers that you can also learn about people and your own emotions through reading.

Thanks for reading (with your eyes open),

Jack St.Rebor

The CAT’S QUIZZER

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Published 1976 by Random House

SUMMARY: 
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This educational style book is not set up in a narrative manner. Like The Cat in The Hat Songbook or I Can Draw It Myself, The Cat’s Quizzer has a guiding character, but they are not telling a story. The book starts with the Cat in the Hat introducing the reader to Ziggy Zozzfozzle and his sister Zizzy. They got all the questions wrong. He then challenges the reader by asking, “Are you smarter than a Zozzfozzel?”

The meat of the story is made up of several short questions, riddles, or statements. These little sentences are somewhat organized into catagories like “True or False”, “Food Quiz” or “A Night Quizzer”. 

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The finale of the quiz is a large Where’s Waldo-like page full of random things like a bear juggling a pineapple, heart, vase and clock. There is also a hippo in a hammock with a vase of flowers on it’s belly. It is basically pure Seuss-caos. The Cat in the Hat tells the reader there are 100 things that begin with H in the picture and that the Zozzfozzle’s could only find 6! Then The Cat in the Hat asks one final question…

“So, how about it…

Are you smarter than a Zozzfozzle?”

All of the answers to the questions asked throughout the book are listed very simply on the last few pages without images, but with lots of color. The last page is the list of 100 things that start with H including…

“1 Cat with a Headache!”

HISTORY:

Like most Beginner Books there is no dedication.

By this point in Seuss’s career The Cat in the Hat was a very recognizable character and one that kids were instantly drawn to and could trust to take them on a fun journey. Parents also recognized Dr. Seuss as an author that would entertain their children and make them excited about reading.

The Cat’s Quizzer is actually mocking the genre of “educational” children’s books, but still manages to be educational. Some of the questions are very silly and have equally silly answers, but some of them will stump even parents.

By introducing the reader to the Zozzfozzle’s and putting them at zero questions correct, Seuss is creating competition to strike the reader’s interest. He also sets the bottom of the grading curve so that even if the reader only gets one question right they are still smarter than the Zozzfozzles!

The drawings are not Seuss’s best. He did a series of Beginner Books because he suffered from Glaucoma and his eye sight was so bad that the “big books” were too much of a challenge to illustrate. He explained his jumpy line work by saying, “Lines seem to move as I draw them.”

FAVORITE QUOTE:

I had a very difficult time finding good images for this book. I need to go through and scan some myself, but this quote was my favorite. It is such an innocent question and seems to make perfect sense. It feels like a question a child would ask and an adult with laugh at, but that would honestly make sense in a child’s mind.

“There are
FLASH-LIGHTS
for when it’s dark.

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“Are there
FLASH-DARKS
for when its light?”

FAVORITE IMAGE:

This one actually took me a second and I’m sure it stumped most kids and even some parents. It feels like a bit of Cat in the Hat trickier and has a pretty classic Seuss look to it with the elephant and mustached man.

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Thanks for reading,
Jack St.Rebor