The butter battle book by Dr Seuss (Random House, 1984)
48 pages with typical Dr Seuss style illustrations!
Subjects: anti-war books, fable, picture books (Year 3-8)
Written in Dr Seuss’ usual zany rhyming style, this book tells the story of two neighbouring communities – Yooks and Zooks – who are divided by their differing opinions on the best way to butter their bread. Things get more heated, and following an initial exchange with a slingshot, the Boys in the Back Room dream up bigger, crazily-named and ever more powerful weapons.
But it’s also a metaphorical look at The Cold War (after all, it’s surely no coincidence that “Yooks” and “Zooks” sound like “Nukes”, and that they are divided by a Wall.) As I got closer to the end, I wondered how it was going to finish and whether the escalating situation could be resolved – but it ends on top of the wall in a situation of total uncertainty.
You can read the whole text online here.
Or you can watch it on YouTube.
The Teach Peace Foundation calls it an “anti-war…children’s rhyming story addressing fears from the cold war era during which it was written. Specifically it deals with the nuclear war and the possibility of mutually assured destruction”. The website has some suggested teaching notes.
Does it matter which way up your butter your bread?
What are some equivalent differences between people in today’s world? (Which way do you...?)
The Teaching Children Philosophy site also poses lots of good questions arising from this story.
About the author
Everyone knows Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991) in other words, Dr Seuss!
Some things I didn’t know about him –
- His first book, And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street, was rejected 27 times before being published by Vanguard Press
- Seuss was his middle name and his mother’s maiden name
- And my favourite fact: his mother used to soothe her children to sleep by chanting rhymes, which is where Dr Seuss thought he got his ability to rhyme from.
Find out more about him here.
And see more of his art here.
Other things I didn’t know
According to the Teach Peace Foundation, this book “was censored and taken out of public libraries for its obvious statements against the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.”
Other books you might like:
Other anti-war picture books include The story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, The general by Janet Charters, illustrated by Michael Foreman, and Bravo! by Philip Waechter and Moni Port.
Have you read it?
Have you read this book? Let me know what you think!