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

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 LORAX

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Published in 1971 by Random House Inc.

SUMMARY:

It is almost a shame to try to put this story into summary form, because it is told so beautifully. It starts with a young boy wandering down a dark lane called The Street of the Lifted Lorax. We instantly feel the mystery, and the narrator furthers this feeling by asking:

“What was the Lorax?
And why was it there?
And why was it lifted and taken somewhere
from the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows?
The old Once-ler still lives here.
Ask him. He knows.”

The Once-ler lives at the top of a tall rickety old building with boarded up windows. We can’t fully see him, just a pair of yellow eyes and green arms. To tell us the story of the Lifted Lorax, the Once-ler requires payment. He lets down a pail on the end of a string and the small boy that represents us, the audience, throws in the odd payment of “fifteen cents and a nail and the shell of a great-great-great-grandfather snail.”

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After counting and hiding your payment he lets down a Whisper-ma-Phone to tell you the secrets of what happened. The pages up to this point are full of blues and purples and a touch of green. All cool colors that create a dark somber feel, but when the Once-ler starts to tell the story and takes us to “a long, long time back…” the pages become bright and happy. They now have lots of pinks, yellows and oranges mixed into sunnier greens and blues.

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The Once-ler starts his story with a description to match the beautiful pages:

“Way back in the days when the grass was still green
and the pond was still wet
and the clouds were still clean,
and the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space…
one morning, I came to this glorious place.
And I first saw the trees!
The Truffula Trees!
The bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees!
Mile after mile in the fresh morning breeze.”

We then meet some of the creatures of the land. There are the Brown Bar-ba-loots that are like small playful bears. They eat the fruits of the Truffula Trees. We also meet the Humming-Fish that splash around in the fresh ponds under the Trufulla Trees, but the Once-ler is much more interested in the trees themselves. Their tufts are softer than silk and he has an idea of exactly what to do with them.

He quickly unloads his cart and builds a small shop right then and there. He chops down a Trufulla Tree and uses the tuft to knit a Thneed. Just as he finishes his work a small creature with a great yellow mustache pops out of the trunk of the chopped down tree. The Once-ler describes him:

“He was shortish. And oldish.
And brownish. And mossy.
And spoke with a voice
that was sharpish and bossy.”

The creature introduces himself,

“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”

He asks the Once-ler what he has made out of the tree he chopped down. The Once-ler shows him the Thneed. Apparently, the Thneed is a “Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need!” The Once-ler explains its many uses, such as being a shirt, a sock or a glove.

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The Lorax is convinced that the Once-ler is just greedy and the Thneed will not sell, but at that moment someone comes and buys it. Then the Once-ler builds a radio-phone and calls in the whole Once-ler family to start business! They build a Thneed factory and start chopping down trees. Chopping down just one tree at a time was too slow so the Once-ler builds a Super-Axe-Hacker which cuts down four Truffula Trees at a time.

The Once-ler doesn’t hear from the Lorax for a week, but one day he shows up at the Once-ler’s Office door and explains that the Brow Bar-ba-loots no longer have enough Truffula Fruit to eat so they have to leave. The Once-ler gives this excuse:

“I meant no harm. I most truly did not.
But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.
I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.
I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads
of the Thneeds I shipped out. I was shipping them forth
to the South! To the East! To the West! To the North!
I went right on biggering…selling more Thneeds.
And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.”

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At this point the colors of the illustrations start to change. The sky becomes duller and the clouds are polluted with blues and purples. Next, the Lorax brings the Swomee-Swans which can’t sing because of the “smogulous smoke!” So they have to fly far away to find somewhere cleaner. As they fly away we can see that the tufts of the trees close to the factory are now all grayish-purple and starting to look droopy.

The Lorax pulls the Once-ler through the Thneed factory showing the reader what the inside looks like. There are vats of slime being churned and slurped through hoses into other vats.

“Your machinery chugs on, day and night without stop
making Gluppity-Glup. Also Schloppity-Schlopp.
And what do you do with this leftover goo?…
I’ll show you. You dirty old Once-ler man, you!”

The Lorax shows the Once-ler, and the reader, the mucked up ponds where the Humming-Fish used to hum, but now they can’t because their gills are all gummed. So they walk off on their fins looking for clean water. At this point the Once-ler gets mad and yells at the Lorax, pointing his green finger right in the Lorax’s face.

“Now listen here, Dad!
All you do is yap-yap and say, ‘Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!’
Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you
I intend to go on doing just what I do!
And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering
on biggering and BIGGERING and BIGGERING and BIGGEREING,
turning MORE Trufulla Trees into Thneeds
which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!”

Just at that moment they hear a loud whack! The very last Truffula tree had been cut down. The whole Once-ler family leaves, because without the trees there is no more work to be done. The Once-ler is now left alone in his huge empty factory. The Lorax doesn’t even say a word. He just gives the Once-ler a sad backward glance and lifts himself up through the air and leaves through a small hole in the smog, never to return.

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The only thing the Lorax left behind was a small pile of rocks with the word “UNLESS”. Through the years the Once-ler couldn’t figure out what the word meant, but when he sees the small boy and tells the story of the Lifted Lorax he realizes the meaning of the Lorax’s message.

“UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.”

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He throws a small seed down to the boy and explains that it is the last Truffula seed. He asks the boy to plant the seed and to give it clean water and grow a whole forest, because Truffula trees are something that everyone needs. He goes on to say that if the forest is protected from axes,

“Then the Lorax
and all of his friends
may come back.”

The end.

ABOUT:

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The image above does not actually appear in the book. It is photoshopped, but it does a great job of summarizing the moral of the story. The message is clear and strong; UNLESS you (as in everyone as individuals) make an effort to do something about the environment it is going to continue to be destroyed by corporations making products that advertising makes us feel that we need!

I honestly feel that this is Seuss’ best told story. It is beautifully illustrated and in a way that makes the words that much more powerful, but this doesn’t mean that Seuss cuts down on descriptiveness. He uses both words and illustrations to create a complete world that we, as the readers, are fully immersed in. It  also uses more subtle story telling devises. The first thing we see is a sign that says “The Street of the Lifted Lorax” which sparks are interested. The last time we see the Lorax he lifts himself away, leaving the pile of rocks that says UNLESS. The pile of rocks is actually the second major things we see at the beginning of the book, we just don’t get to see the word UNLESS until the very end. This inclusion of some of the final elements of the story in the very beginning creates a full circle feel. The entire book/story is well thought out from beginning to end.

Also, by including just a touch of water in the drip of the faucet and the sad looking cactus on the Once-ler’s tower, Seuss is actually pointing out the lack of water and greenery, which is sharply contrasted by the green hills, beautiful trees and clean pond when we see the land the way it used to be.

“It’s one of the few things I ever set out to do that was straight propaganda…It was also the hardest thing I have ever done, because the temptation was to fall into the same traps the others had fallen into…”

By telling the story from the Once-ler’s perspective Seuss avoids lecturing his audience. He felt that other stories about conservation come off as preachy and full of statistics. Instead, we are being shown an example of how to learn from someone else’s mistake through a fun narrative. Although, the Once-ler is intentionally never fully shown and therefore can not be identified as human, we are meant to relate to his need for material things and more importantly money. By the end of the story we realize the Once-ler may be the bad guy, but then so are we.

Seuss gives us hope by revealing the seed, and a chance for change, represented by the young boy, but he doesn’t leave us completely satisfied. He ends the story saying the creatures “may come back” not “will come back.” This shows us that the damage is done, but that things can be fixed. If he left it completely resolved we would not feel a sense of responsibility that stays with us long after putting the book back on the shelf.

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HISTORY:

The Lorax is dedicated to “Audrey”, Seuss’ second wife, and her daughters, “Lark and Lea” “With Love.”

This book did not become super popular until a decade later when environmentalism became a big issue. At first it sold a bit slowly. Seuss readers were a bit confused by it, but Seuss often said it was his favorite book. Eventually it was picked up by many elementary schools to teach conservation. Elliot Elementary school in Lansing, Michigan even started a group called “The Loraxes” that protested cutting down trees, started petitions and planted trees.

Seuss received an award from Keep America Beautiful in November of 1971. The character the Lorax is still used as a symbol for environmentalism 42 years later.

Bill Baily sold logging equipment in Laytonville, California in the late 80’s. In 1989 his son, Sammy, after reading The Lorax in school, claimed his father didn’t love trees anymore. Bill and his wife tried to have The Lorax removed from the elementary reading list because it was anti-logging.

Bill Baily was not the only one who felt attacked by The Lorax. In 1997 Terri Birkett wrote a book called Truax which mimics The Lorax in style. It is about Guardbark, who is a human shaped tree creature, yelling at a logger named Truax. The story comes to the conclusion that logging is needed and useful and that loggers plant new trees so its okay. Guardbark is convinced and flies away leaving the logger surround by smiling creatures.

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Here is a great summary of the book:

http://www.buildingalibrary.com/miscellany/this-book-actually-exists-the-truax-%E2%80%93-a-parody-of-the-lorax-from-the-national-oak-flooring-association/68

Seuss’s response to criticism of The Lorax was:

The Lorax doesn’t say lumbering is immoral. I live in a house made of wood and write books printed on paper. It’s a book about going easy on what we’ve got. It’s anti-pollution and anti-greed.”

Seuss was willing to make one change to The Lorax. There was originally a line that said, “I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie.” In 1984, fourteen years after that line was first published, a couple of research associates from Ohio Sea Grant Program asked Seuss to change the line to past-tense since Lake Erie had been cleaned up. In all future publications the line is simply omitted.

OTHER VERSIONS:

In 1972 an animated version of The Lorax was release. Newsweek described it as,

“a hard-sell ecological allegory, stabbing mainly at big business through a deceptively gentle blend of gorgeous colors, superb animation, and a rippling imagery of words and pictures.”

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The message was actually softened slightly, but the animation style and plot was kept generally the same. We never see the Once-ler, other than as a pair of green arms, just like in the book.

Seuss claimed his favorite part was at the very end when “Maybe Not” was superimposed over “The End.” Which leaves the feeling of uncertainty that the end of the book has:

“Then the Lorax
and all of his friends
may come back.”

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Just recently, in 2012, Universal Studios release The Lorax the motion picture. I always have a hard time with feature length versions (whether they are live action or computer animation) of Dr.Seuss books, because so much of what I love about his books comes from the poetry and the illustrations. I am not going to say I love this movie, but I do think it does a great job of appealing to today’s younger audiences.

MV5BMTU1MTAwMjk1NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDI5NDc4Ng@@._V1_SX214_ I’m trying not to be a grumpy purist. I’m assuming it helped book sales and turned a whole new generation of young readers into Seuss fans. If that is the case then it’s a good thing. I have a problem with the fact that there is a love story thrown in and that we see the Once-ler and he is very much human. It took some of the mystery out of it, but it is fun and has the same general message of pollution being bad and that we shouldn’t abuse nature. The computer animation is beautifully done and the voice acting is very fun. I would recommend it to people with young children, but I would say it should be quickly followed by an introduction to the book if the child doesn’t already read Dr. Seuss.

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FAVORITE IMAGE:

I’m kind of cheating on this one. This image does not actually appear in the book, but it is illustrated by Dr. Seuss and I just love the green and purple, with the little Lorax popping out of the tree. I would love to have this as a painting on my wall.

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FAVORITE QUOTE:

“Now all that was left ‘neath the bad-smelling sky
was my big empty factory…
the Lorax…
and I.”

This line stuck with me for some reason. It is sort of haunting. After all the production of the thneeds was over the Once-lers family leaves him behind so that he has to face the polluted sky and land all alone. The Lorax doesn’t even speak to him, he also leaves the Once-ler in the mess he’s made.

Thanks for reading,

Jack St.Rebor

The Cat in the Hat SONGBOOK

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Published 1967 by Random House

Inside page description:

“These are songs especially written by the Dokkulous Doctor for Young New Singers and their parents and their teachers.
Composer Eugene Poddany has captured the spirit of the Doctor’s lyrics and presented them in a voice range that young untrained voices can warble with ease.
Besides the piano score, most of the songs also feature guitar chords (in case you have a Beginner Guitarist in you home.)”

SUMMARY:

There is no narration for this book. It jumps straight into written music and is constructed of 19 songs written by Dr. Seuss (Piano Score and Guitar Chords by Eugene Poddany.) The Cat in the Hat ties things together by being  in the title, on the cover, and featured in most of the songs.

The 19 Songs are as follows:

1. LET US ALL SING

A song about singing being good for almost anything.

2. The SUPER-SUPPER MARCH

A song made to help kids march to the table for dinner.

3. MY UNCLE TERWILLIGER WALTZES With BEARS

A concerned nephew sings about his Uncle’s addiction to dancing with bears.

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4. In My Bureau Drawer

A song about a person keeping an extra tooth in their bureau drawer.

5. The No LAUGH RACE

This song consists of instructions to stand face to face and stare at each other without laughing. It comes with a note that reads:

“A Party Game Song

Note: This is an elimination contest. Any child who laughs has to drop out. The left-over children re-group with new partners. They keep this up until only one child, the winner, remains.”

6. PLINKER PLUNCKER

A song of silly noises.

7. HURRY HURRY HURRY!

A song about different creatures, with various amounts of legs, hurrying about.

8. CRY A PINT

A sad song about filling a pint jar full of tears and then crying so much that  you fill up two pints, making a quart. Then crying so much you fill up four quarts, which makes a gallon!

9. AH-A-A-A-A-A-H…CHOO

A drawn out sneeze set to music.

10. I CAN FIGURE FIGURES

A math song full of equations that eventually equals “French fried noodles and a green string bean!”

11. SOMEBODY STOLE MY HOO-TO FOO-TO BOO-TO BAH!

A sad song about loosing a hoo-to foo-to boo-to bah.

12. RAINY DAY in UTICA, N.Y.

A song full of drips and drops.

13. LULLABY for MR. BENJAMIN B. BICKELBAUM

A lullaby for a very tired man that is trying to get some sleep.

14. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO Little SALLY SPINGLE SPUNGLE SPORN

A birthday song not only for Sally, but also for Fred’rick Futzenfell, Waldo Wilberforce, Paul Revere’s horse and, of course, you.

15. MY UNCLE TERWILLIGER LIKES to PAT.

A song about good old Uncle Terwilliger and his enjoyment of patting any animal no matter how small or fat.

16. YAWN SONG

A song about yawning today.

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17. THE LEFT-SOCK THIEVERS

A warning song to look out for people who steal left socks, because you’ll look awfully silly with only your right sock left.

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18. DRUMMERS DRUMMING

This song is in a round and consists of drumming sounds repeated.

19. PARTY PARTING

A song to sing at the end of parties as a farewell to your friends.

 

SEUSS’S LIFE AT THE TIME:

While writing The Cat in the Hat SONGBOOK, Seuss was having an affair with his eventual second wife while his first wife was helping him publish this book.

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Helen Palmer (pictured above) had fallen ill many years earlier and was in a decline again during this time. Her and Seuss were about to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, but Helen killed herself  a month before the date. On Oct. 22nd 1967 she wrote a note to Seuss and took an overdose of sleeping pills. She was 69 years old (six years older than Seuss.) Part of the note (which I have mentioned in earlier posts) reads:

“Dear Ted,

What has happened to us?

I don’ t know.

I feel myself in a spiral, going down down down, into a black hole from which there is no escape, no brightness. And loud in my ears from every side I hear, “failure, failure, failure, failure…”

I love you so much…I am too old and enmeshed in everything you do and are, that I cannot conceive of life without you…My going will leave quite a rumor but you can say I was overworked and overwrought. Your reputation with your friends and fans will not be harmed….Sometimes, think of the fun we had all thru the years…”

The note clearly hints that Helen knew about the affair and knew that it meant their marriage was at an end. They had not only been husband and wife, but business partners for almost 40 years, but Seuss had fallen in love with Audrey Dimond (at the time Audrey Grey.) Audrey and her husband were friends of Seuss and Helen’s and had spent many dinner parties together.

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When Audrey (pictured above) approached her husband about a divorce he asked, “Who is going to do the driving?” When Audrey replied, in surprise, that she would be, he replied, “Good. I don’t want any wife of mine marrying a man who drives the way Ted does.”

Seuss (Ted Geisel) wrote a letter to his friends to explain Audrey’s divorce and his marriage to her:

“…I’ve written you kids at least ten times about my future plans. And, everytime, torn the letters up. The letters get so involved, so unbelievable. So let me put it out, flat on the line, without any comment or begging for understanding.

On the 21st of June, Audrey Dimond is going to Reno to divorce Grey Dimond…Audrey and I are going to be married about the first week in August. I am acquiring two daughters aged nine and fourteen. I am rebuilding the house to take care of the influx. I am 64 years old. I am marrying a woman eighteen years younger…I have not flipped my lid. This is not a sudden nutty decision…This is an inevitable, inescapable conclusion to five years of four people’s frustration. All I can ask you is to try to believe in me.”

HISTORY:

This was a low point in Seuss’s career. His personal life clearly took a toll on his creative process and affected his and Helen’s business relationship as well. This is Seuss’ only book (other than The Seven Lady Godivas) to be allowed to go out of print because the sales did so poorly.

As if he was trying to give insight into his personal life, Seuss had recently dedicated a book to Audrey and this book he dedicated to her daughters. It reads:

“For Lark and Lea
of
Ludington Lane”

A vinyl of the 19 songs was released the same year as the book and was equally unsuccessful.

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It was reissued later with bonus tracks of If I Ran the Circus and Dr.Seuss’s SLEEPBOOK in spoken word.

Here is a link to Grooveshark where you can listen to all the tracks.

http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/The+Cat+In+The+Hat+Songbook/974945

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The reissued edition takes the gray out of The Cat’s body so he looks more like how he appears in his other stories. The background and title colors are swapped to make it more bright and the “19 songs” quote is moved up toward the title. There is no later cover because the book went out of printing.

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FAVORITE IMAGE:

I am not a big fan of any of the illustrations in this particular book, but I do enjoy the expressions on these little kid’s faces. Very serious.

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FAVORITE SONG:

My favorite song is the final song of the book, The Party Parting . I want to play it at the end of parties and see how people react.

“Time goes past.
Time goes fast.
Comes a time in every party when the party parts.
Good time ends.
Good night good friends.
Good night to all your warm and friendly foolish hearts.
10b3_12So rumble, rumble, rumble home now.
Rumble, rumble, rumble home.
Rumble, stumble, stumble home now,
In your rumble, stumble carts.
Bless your souls.
Don’t fall in any holes.
This party’s only parted till the next one starts!”

 

Thanks for reading,

Jack St.Rebor

Fox in Socks

small Fox-in-Socks-coverPublished 1965  BEGINNER BOOKS A Division of Random House

Philip Nel, the author of Dr. Seuss: American Icon, describes Fox in Socks as “taking rhyme, alliteration, consonance, and assonance to their illogical extremes, Seuss reduces words to sounds, amusing to say, but distracting from sense.”

SUMMARY:

As soon as you open the cover you are shown a warning to read the book slowly because it is “dangerous.”

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It starts off nice and simple with an image of  a fox with the word “fox” next to it. It also shows us socks, box and a character named Knox.

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Then we start to see these words put into sentences, such as, “Knox in box. Fox in socks.” Then a touch more complicated, “Knox on fox in socks in box.” This is flipped around to, “Fox in socks on box on Knox.” The visual changes with the words so that the socks are at the top of the page and the fox is doing a hand stand on the box which is on top of Knox’s head. Leading the reader down the page.

Then we learn that the fox is narrating the story. He introduces Knox to some new words. Chicks and bricks, blocks and clocks. These items get stacked in various ways created several fun tongue twisting sentences.

“First, I’ll make a
quick trick brick stack.
Then I’ll make a
quick trick block stack.
You can make a
quick trick chick stack.
You can make a
quick trick clock stack.”

Fox-in-Socks (2)

As the sentences get more complicated Knox pleads with the fox,

“Please, sir. I don’t
like this trick, sir.
My tongue isn’t
quick or slick, sir.
I get all those
ticks and clocks, sir,
mixed up with the chicks and tocks, sir.
I can’t do it, Mr. Fox, sir.”

The fox apologizes and tries to make the phrases easier for Knox with,

“Who sees who sew
whose new socks, sir?
you see Sue sow
Sue’s new socks, sir.”

But Knox does not think that that is easier. This goes on; the fox shows Knox new tongue twisting phrases claiming that they are easy, when really they become more and more complicated. Each time, Knox says he simply can’t say it.

Finally the fox pulls Knox in close, staring him straight in the eyes and asks him to say,

“Through three cheese trees
three free fleas flew.
While these fleas flew,
freezy breeze blew.
Freezy breeze made
these three trees freeze.
Freezy trees made
these trees’ cheese freeze.
That’s what made these
three fleas sneeze.”

Knox burst out,

“Stop it! Stop it!
That’s enough, sir.
I can’t say
such silly stuff, sir.”

But the fox pushes it one more time. He tells Knox about the tweetle beetles. He starts off simple, but then builds up to:

“When beetles
fight these battles
in a bottle
with their paddles
and the bottle’s
on a poodle
and the poodle’s
eating noodles…
…they call this
a muddle puddle
tweetle poodle
beetle noodle
bottle paddle battle.

AND…”

But just as the fox about to expand on the tweetle beetle battle situation, Knox simply can not take it any longer and he grabs the fox and shoves him in the bottle with the battling tweetle beetles and gives the fox a taste of  his own medicine with this tongue twister:

“When a fox is
in the bottle where
the tweetle beetles battle
with their paddles
in a puddle on a
noodle-eating poodle,
THIS is what they call…
…a tweetle beetle
noodle poodle bottled
paddled muddled duddled
fuddled wuddled
fox in socks, sir!”

And he leaves the fox with a wave and a smile on his face as he says,

“Fox in socks,
our game is done, sir.
Thank you for
a lot of fun sir.”

The book ends with a sign just like at the beginning, but this time it reads “Now is your Tongue Numb?”

HISTORY:

The dedication reads:

“For
Mitzi Long and Audrey Dimond
of the
Mt. Soledad Lingual Laboratories”

This is a very noteworthy dedication, not only because it is the first Beginner Book to have a dedication, but also because Audrey Dimond was Seuss’ second wife. At the time of this dedication she was married and had two children and Seuss was still married to his first wife Helen. Seuss was immediately taken with Audrey and she and her husband become “family friends” of the Geisel’s (Dr. Seuss’s real name was Theodore Geisel.) Seuss and Audrey eventually had an affair, but not during this time. That came later and I will touch on it more and on his first wife’s suicide in a later post since they happened during a different children’s book publication.

Mitzi was just another friend that lived in the La Jolla area where the Seuss’ resided and the Mt. Soledad Lingual Laboratories was a made up location that Seuss and Audrey joked about, because Seuss claimed that Audrey was the only adult that could say his tongue twisters out loud.

The newer cover took out the quote that is on the original cover. It reads:

“This is a book you READ ALOUD to find out
just  how smart your tongue is. The first time you
read it, don’t go fast! This Fox is a tricky fox.
He’ll try to get your tongue in trouble.”

It also brightens the background to a sunshine yellow and shows the fox in one of his poses that is in the book.

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FAVORITE :

My favorite quote is definitely the climax of the beetle battle. It’s just fun to say and the images are hilarious.

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“When beetles
fight these battles
in a bottle
with their paddles
and the bottle’s
on a poodle
and the poodle’s
eating noodles…
…they call this
a muddle puddle
tweetle poodle
beetle noodle
bottle paddle battle.”

FAVORITE IMAGE:

My favorite image comes early on in the book. It’s of Knox and the fox doing handstands with clocks balancing on their feet. I just love how helpless poor Knox looks, and yet the fox is so excited about it!

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Thanks for reading,

Jack St. Rebor