Not Just Kid Stuff

Dr. Seuss
    When we first heard that Dr. Seuss Day was coming, some of the kids in my fifth grade class weren't too excited because we liked his books but we thought we had outgrown them. Then we started to prepare to celebrate Theodor Seuss Geisel's birthday by doing some research and we found some really interesting things about this famous author. His books had many morals and you have to read deep into his words to understand them.

    Theodor Geisel was born on March 2, 1904. When he was growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts he spent a lot of time at the zoo because his father was the superintendent.  He liked drawing pictures of the animals.  Even when he grew up he liked to draw imaginary animals in his books.
    He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1925 and then he went to England to study for his Doctor's Degree in Literature at Oxford University.  But before he got his degree, he got married in 1927 and returned to America. He first got jobs writing and drawing cartoons for magazines and he also worked in advertising. He started to write and illustrate children's books in 1937. He used his mother's maiden name, Seuss, as an author. He called himself Dr. Seuss and in 1980 he received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Whittier College.  Dr. Seuss died in 1991 but his books are still being read all over the world.

    In 1954 there was a report in Life magazine about children not being able to read well and the government and the schools wanted to do something about it.  His publishers told Theodor Geisel that children weren't reading because kids' books were boring. They got a list of 400 words that teachers said young children should learn and asked him if he could write interesting and exciting books using these simple words. He used 220 of these words to write The Cat In The Hat.  Then his editor bet him $50 that he couldn't write a book using only 50 different words.  He won the bet when he wrote Green Eggs and Ham.

    Dr. Seuss books are fun to read because he makes the words rhyme and he makes up imaginary words that sound silly.  If you say them fast your tongue gets twisted.  But they're good to teach young kids to read because they show them which sounds go with the letters of the alphabet.  A lot of his books can also teach people, even adults, about serious problems we have to solve in real life. We liked reading The Sneetches for this project because it's about not being prejudiced against others who don’t look like you.  The Lorax is about not wasting natural resources and protecting the environment.  The one we liked best was The Butter Battle Book because it's about preventing war.

    In The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss two groups fought because of foolishness.  The Yooks ate their bread with the butter on top and the Zooks ate theirs with the butter on the bottom.  They disliked each other for this and both sides were building contraptions to fight a war.  They did not really understand that it was a dangerous situation and that they will have to deal with the consequences.  When they were getting ready to go to war one character said it's time to "do or die".  I think it's smarter to "live and let live".
    At the beginning of the book the Yooks and Zooks were building a wall between them that looked like the Great Wall in China.  That real wall was also built to keep others out.  It was the biggest wall ever built.  It was 3,000 miles long and when the astronauts took pictures from their rocket ships, the Great Wall could be seen from outer space.  But it did not work and the Chinese were defeated by other people.
    We also learned that there once was a Great War.  All of the countries that fought it said it would be the war to end all wars because they would defeat their enemies permanently and live in peace.  But it didn't end all wars.  Twenty years later there was another war that was called World War II.  Then they changed the name of the Great War to World War I in the history books.  If we would just learn that fighting isn't going to solve anything the world would be a better place.

    We read about Hiroshima where the first atomic bomb was dropped.  There was a huge explosion that killed thousands of people.  Then the sky turned dark in the middle of the day because of all of the dirt and dust that was blown up into the air.  It started to rain black raindrops.  If the people did not die immediately they could get radiation sickness that could kill them years later.
 In The Butter Battle Book both sides built silly looking weapons with funny sounding names.  They thought they could destroy the other side's weapons or threaten to attack back to get revenge.  Now, in real life, the United States is trying to build a missile defense system.  If another country fires a missile at us we will send our own missile up to hit it in space and destroy it.  But what will fall to Earth if that happens?

    Dr. Seuss wanted to write this book in 1984 because the Cold War was going on.  It was called the Cold War because the countries did not start fighting but they kept threatening each other.  He wanted to teach young and old that it is wrong to keep making weapons that can kill millions of people.  The United States and Russia were making nuclear weapons that were much more powerful than the atomic bombs that we dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.  Other countries have also joined this Arms Race.  Just like the Yooks and the Zooks they thought that if they had better weapons they could not be defeated in another war.

    Now scientists are warning us that if we have World War III we could have a Nuclear Winter.  The explosions would make so much dust in the air that the sun couldn't shine through it.  Plants would die because they need sunlight to make food. Then animals that eat plants will die.  People will die too because we need plants and animals to survive. When both sides dropped their bombs in The Butter Battle Book everything vanished.  So Dr. Seuss made a good point.

 This book is really about the Arms Race and it has a moral:

If you start a war you will end up with zero.

                         Then you will not be such a hero.



By Lawrence Yep
Apple Books, 1996
ISBN: 0590208330

The following are all by Dr. Seuss,
published by Random House:

The Cat In The Hat, 1957
ISBN: 039480001X

Green Eggs And Ham, 1960
ISBN: 0394800168

The Sneetches And Other Stories, 1988
 ISBN: 0394800893

The Lorax, 1971
ISBN: 0394823370

The Butter Battle Book, 1984
ISBN: 0394865804

Linked Web Sites

The Dr. Seuss Web Page

The Great Wall Of China

Air Force Link (Minuteman III missile picture)

 A-Bomb WWW Museum

Nuclear Tests Pictures

Grade 5
Mr. Gary Greenberg, Teacher
Public School 241
976 President Street
Broooklyn, New York 11225 USA