Even Dr. Seuss Recognized He Was 'Subversive As Hell' (2024)

[Ed. note: The following post is republished from the New York Public Library as part of its series on Banned Books Week.]

Our next title under the microscope during Banned Books week is the canonical nonsense tale of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. “I do not like them, Sam-I-am, I do not like green eggs and ham.” The People’s Republic of China most notably concurred with this key mantra of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham. Beginning in 1965, it was forbidden to read Green Eggs and Ham in Maoist China because of its “portrayal of early Marxism,” and the ban was not lifted until author Theodor Seuss Geisl’s death in 1991.

First published in 1960, this whimsical book of rhyme aimed at encouraging children to try new things was great for early readers because it conveyed this complex message while using less than 50 words. Through repetition of simple words, protagonist Sam-I-Am insistently implores his nameless counterpart to try the book’s eponymous dish (in a box with a fox, with a goat in a boat), who stubbornly refuses to taste the verdant breakfast. A bargain is finally struck between the debating characters; Sam’s bedraggled friend will taste the meal if Sam-I-Am agrees to finally leave him alone. Lo and behold, Sam’s friend discovers that he not only likes green eggs and ham, but he can’t wait to eat them in all the scenarios Sam-I-Am had been suggesting all along.

In addition to the decades-long suppression of Green Eggs and Ham in Communist China, Yertle the Tertle (1958) has recently crawled back onto banned book lists; in April 2012 the Prince Rupert School District in British Columbia, CA removed the book from schools because it violated a school ban on political messages for the line “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here at the bottom, we too should have rights.” The Lorax (1972) similarly raised the ire of a community in California because of its portrayal of loggers as being environmentally unfriendly.

Dr. Seuss himself admitted that as an author he was “subversive as hell,” and did not want to write stories about modeling good behavior for children. His books encouraged standing up to authority while comically illustrating the consequences of fear-based thinking–bold ideas that have made a Grinch out of those opposed to instilling such attitudes in children.

Liberman is a senior librarian at the New York Public Library’s Mulberry Branch.

“Stock Photo: United States – Circa 1999: A Postage Stamp Printed In USA Showing An Image Of The Cat Character From The Book The Cat In The Hat Written By Dr. Seuss, Circa 1999.” on Shutterstock.

Even Dr. Seuss Recognized He Was 'Subversive As Hell' (2024)


Even Dr. Seuss Recognized He Was 'Subversive As Hell'? ›

Though Seuss made a point of not beginning the writing of his stories with a moral in mind, stating that "kids can see a moral coming a mile off", he was not against writing about issues; he said "there's an inherent moral in any story" and remarked that he was "subversive as hell".

What is the famous quote from Green Eggs and Ham? ›

I do not like green eggs and ham! Would you like them here or there? I would not like them here or there. I would not like them anywhere.

What did Dr. Seuss believe in? ›

Seuss was a liberal and a moralist who expressed his views in his books through the use of ridicule, satire, wordplay, nonsense words, and wild drawings to take aim at bullies, hypocrites, and demagogues.

When did Dr. Seuss get rejected? ›

Seuss Got His Start 'On Mulberry Street' Theodor Geisel's first book for kids was rejected 27 times before it was finally published in 1937. And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street was inspired by a very ordinary street in Geisel's Massachusetts hometown.

Why did Dr. Seuss call himself a doctor? ›

He added the "Doctor (abbreviated Dr.)" to his pen name because his father had always wanted him to practice medicine. For books that Geisel wrote and others illustrated, he used the pen name "Theo LeSieg", starting with I Wish That I Had Duck Feet published in 1965.

What are green eggs and ham a metaphor for? ›

Green eggs and ham is a metaphor for anything that somebody does not like. Many times people have an aversion to something but there is no real reason for it. For example, if someone says they do not enjoy woodworking but they have never tried it, then woodworking could be a version of green eggs and ham.

What are the 50 words in green eggs and ham? ›

Green Eggs and Ham only uses 50 words: a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, and you.

What did Dr. Seuss have his Phd in? ›

Seuss was not a doctor. He briefly studied English literature at Oxford after graduating from Dartmouth but instead became a cartoonist. In 1955, Dartmouth awarded him an honorary doctorate. Author and illustrator Theodor Seuss Geisel, known as Dr.

What was Dr. Seuss most remembered for? ›

What is Dr. Seuss most famous for? Dr. Seuss is probably best known for his books to help children learn to read, such as One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Green Eggs and Ham, and Hop on Pop, his cautionary tales including The Lorax, and the inspirational Oh, the Places You'll Go!.

What was controversial about Dr. Seuss? ›

Seuss's works are positive and inspiring. However, early in his career, Geisel also created images that are disturbing and upsetting. He used racially stereotypical images that were hurtful then and are still hurtful today. Many parents, teachers, and experts have raised the question – was Dr.

Where is Dr. Seuss buried? ›

Seuss was cremated and his ashes were scattered. There is a memorial garden replete with statues of his famous characters in his native Springfield, MA.

How many children did Dr. Seuss have? ›

Seuss never had any biological children. Helen Geisel was unable to bear children, and Geisel did not father any children with his second wife Audrey, though he was a stepfather to her two daughters.

Did Dr. Seuss get married? ›

Audrey Grace Florine Stone (August 14, 1921 – December 19, 2018) was the second wife of American children's book author Theodor Geisel ( a.k.a. Dr. Seuss), to whom she was married from 1968 until his death in 1991.

Did Dr. Seuss have a medical degree? ›

He was not a doctor. He added the title “doctor” before Seuss (his mother's maiden name) while in college to lend credibility to his writings and characters, and in reaction to his father's wish that his son would get a doctorate.

What was Dr. Seuss' favorite book that he wrote? ›

Audrey Geisel, Dr. Seuss' second wife, once told Reading Rockets that the author didn't have a favorite of his books. "First of all ... he was like a father, he liked all his children ... Particularly in the time of their conception," she said.

What is the phrase with egg and ham? ›

The term in culture

"Like ham and eggs" refers to things that typically go together and are difficult to separate. To "ham and egg it" is to plug away at something. "Ham and eggs" or "ham and egger" can also refer to an ordinary, unskilled or mediocre person.

What is the first line of green eggs and ham? ›


What is the famous line from Horton hears a who? ›

Horton Hears a Who!

Don't give up! I believe in you all. A person's a person, no matter how small! And you very small persons will not have to die.

What is Dr. Seuss message in green eggs and ham? ›

by Dr. Seuss

Finally, the boy tries them and discovers that he actually does like green eggs and ham, so he thanks Sam. Moral reasoning in the story focuses on concern for relationships. The theme of the story is Don't make up your mind about something without trying it.

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