Top 100 Picture Books #12: Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
#12 Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (1960)
Because, “Try them, you may like them,” are words to live by. – DaNae Leu
One of the great questions of childhood is: What’s with parents putting bizarre items on your plate and expecting you to eat them? Dr. Seuss’s answer to the question is this book, in which a way-too-cheerful Sam-I-Am pursues our poor old sad sack in the battered hat all over tarnation trying to get him to try a weird-looking dish. (Aren’t green things, um, rotten?) In amongst all the madness, the book features a cumulative format and a refrain in the framing of the questions, all of which make the story particularly memorable and easy to chant. The absurdity of the places and dining companions Sam-I-Am proposes build slapstick hilarity with all the verve of a Loony Tunes cartoon until fox, goat, mouse, and all find themselves diving a train onto a boat and splashing around to provide a watery witness for Sam’s final plea—and for our guy’s shock when he takes a bite and the strange food turns out to be tasty. Don’t be fooled into thinking this book is propaganda, though. Seuss pokes fun of parent and child alike in the often-nutty battle of the dinner (or breakfast) table. – Kate Coombs
Yum! – Rose Marie Moore
There are only 50 words in this book. I write more words than that when I make up a shopping list. Now of all the Seuss easy reader titles in the world, I don’t think my money would have placed this puppy above dear old Cat in the Hat. Yet here we are! The Cat sits silently at a mere #36 and Green Eggs and Ham comes frighteningly close to the #1 spot.
The description from my library’s catalog is sort of weirdly fascinating. Check this out: “Sam-I-Am tries to persuade the narrow minded, stubborn patron to taste his green eggs and ham with all kinds of accommodations without success until he gives up his pushy style and lets his patron determine under what circumstances he will taste his green eggs and ham.” Okay. That was NOT necessarily the book that I was reading (is Sam a waiter that he has a “patron”?) and I love that the moral according to this isn’t “try them and you may like them” but rather “don’t be pushy”. Really?
Kate’s quote up above (and that odd description too) highlight one of the stranger problems associated with the book. We all know Sam I Am. We should considering how often his name is invoked. What we don’t know is the name of the other guy. He’s sometimes called Sam’s friend but that’s as close as he gets to a moniker.
At one point on this blog I sent out an all call and asked folks to create a piece of Dr. Seuss art in the style of another children’s picture book artist. The results were mildly brilliant, particularly those in the Green Eggs and Ham category. Observe Aaron Zenz’s take on Seuss-meets-Eric Carle:
And Mike Boldt blew us away with his Seuss-meets-Tomie de Paola:
- Rachael Ray has her own recipe for this dish (though it doesn’t look quite sufficiently green to me).
- There is also a highly acclaimed app for the book out there.
- I like this statue from the book quite a bit as well.
In Seussical: The Musical the book serves as the curtain call song. And this version has the most interested curtain call of them all.
There is the animated version as well:
And finally, the ultimate Green Eggs and Ham cake! Yum.
Filed under: Best Books, Top 100 Picture Books Poll
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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