Top 100 Picture Books #63: The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss
This book is a perfect sampler of Dr. Seuss stories. The title story and “The Zax” provide some of his powerful and beautifully simple fables. They’re quirky, they’re strange, they roll off the tongue, and they leave you with one simple message that you won’t soon forget. “Too Many Daves” is a brilliant example of Seussian word play, cataloging his incredible imagination and magical ear for language. Who else would think of names like “Oliver Boliver Butt,” and “Zanzibar Buck Buck McFate”? And then, “What Was I Scared Of?” is sort of a Very First Ghost Story. Who else on earth would have thought of telling a story about pale green pants with nobody inside them? I remember the spooky thrill I got as a child from that story. It scares, but it fascinates. – Sondra Eklund
I like that Sondra highlighted the “Other Stories” in this book. It’s easy to forget that this collection was more than just a Sneetches tale alone. There are other books to be found in here, and mighty interesting they are indeed. And thanks to her write-up I don’t have to try to find another description out there of the book. Bonus!
According to Jonathan Cott’s Pipers at the Gates of Dawn: The Wisdom of Children’s Literature the inspiration for the book came out of Geisel’s opposition to religious intolerance. He is quoted as saying, “children’s literature as I write it and as I see it is satire to a great extent … there’s The Sneetches … which was inspired by my opposition to anti-Semitism.” I suppose the star should have been a giveaway.
Now here’s a news headline for you. Can’t get much more eye-popping than, “Agency of NATO and United Nations to Distribute Dr. Seuss Stories to Foster Racial Tolerance in War-Torn Bosnia”. The story dates back to August of 1998 when Random House and Seuss Enterprises made an announcement. “The Sneetches and Other Stories, a book by the celebrated children’s author Dr. Seuss, will be translated by NATO into Serbo-Croatian and distributed in the fall to 500,000 children in Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of an information campaign to help encourage racial tolerance.” A NATO soldier had come up with the idea, having loved the book as a kid. You can be the judge as to how well it worked, of course.
You have the option of wearing a star on your own belly, so to speak, if you like:
And, naturally, there was the film version of the titular story:
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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