Dr. Seuss: The Butter Battle Book
(researched by Elizabeth Keegan)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
The first edition of The Butter Battle Book was published in 1984 by Random House Inc. in New York City. It was published simultaneously in Canada
by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first edition of this book was published in cloth.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
26 leaves, unnumbered [pp.1-52]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
This book is neither edited nor introduced.
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
This book is fully illustrated in color by the author, Dr. Seuss.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
The book is in excellent condition. Like almost all Dr. Seuss books, the general physical appearance is extremely attractive. The bin
ding of the book is in bright orange cloth. The entire book is illustrated in bold, vibrant color. The text is printed in black and is equally attractive.
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The quality of paper used for this book is quite excellent. The paper is thick, white, and sturdy. It has held up very well over time and it appears it will continue to do so. There sre no signs of wrinkling, tearing, or any other sort of damage.
11 Description of binding(s)
The binding is sturdy and has no visible signs of damage or wear. The binding is in bright orange cloth. On spine, the lettering in blue: The Butter Battle Book. Lettering in black: Dr. Seuss/RANDOM HOUSE. Lettering on the cover in bright yellow wi
th black outline: The/Butter Battle/Book/By/Dr. Seuss. The cover is illustrated in color.
12 Transcription of title page
The/Butter Battle/Book/By/Dr. Seuss/RANDOM HOUSE NEW YORK
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
The original manuscripts for this book are currently held at Mandeville Special Collections Libra
ry, located within Geisel Library at the University of California, Sandiego.
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
A limited leather bound edition was issued by Random House Inc. in 1984.
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
Waiting to hear from publisher.
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Collins, London, 1984 Zephyr Press, 1984 Seedlings Braille Books for Children, 1986
6 Last date in print?
The Butter Battle Book is still in print (1999).
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
Waiting to hear from publisher.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
Waiting to hear from publisher.
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
The following is a trascription of a full page advertisement for the book that appeared in newspapers: FOR HIS 80TH BIRTHDAY DR. SEUSS HAS GIVEN US ALL A MOMENTOUS PRESENT
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
The Butter Battle Book was heavily promoted due to the date of its release which ocurred on the 80th birthday of Dr. Seuss, March 2, 1984. Publishers Weekly devoted its entire cover, as well as the first two pages, to Dr. Seus
s and the Butter Battle Book during that first week of March.
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Audio recording, 1984, Based on the Book: the Butter Battle Book, Westminister Md.:Random House. Video cassette adapted from animated television production, 1989, Dr. Seuss' the Butter Battle Book, [Atlanta, Ga.]:Turner Home Entertainment ((30 min) sd., col. 1/2in.).
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
The Butter battle Book was translated into more than 20 languages. It was first
translated into Japanese in 1984. The following are two translations that have been printed: Abaixo o lado de baixo, 1984, Rio de Janeiro, RJ Editora Record Ha-Mihlamah ha-ayumah 'al ha-hemiah, 1986, Keter, Yerushalayim: Bet notsa'ah.
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
N/A
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
N/A
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known to millions of fans throughout the world as Dr. Seuss, was born on March 2, 1904 in Springfield Massachusetts. He was the only son of Theodor and Henrietta Geisel. Theodor Geisel, the elder, worked in a brewery for most of his life and became president of the company on the day that prohibition was declared. Henrietta Geisel was, prior to marriage, Henrietta Seuss. When Theodor, the younger, attended college at Dartmouth he adopted the pseudonym, Dr. Seuss for humorous drawings and sketches that were published in the school newspaper. He had been interested in writing and drawing for most of his life, although he never completed an art class in high school or college. Much of his time at Dartmouth was occupied with the work he did for the college humor magazine, "Jack O'Lantern". He eventually became editor. Theodore graduated from Dartmouth in 1925 and then attended Oxford for graduate work in English. After a year at Oxford, he became frustrated with the stuffiness and attention to rules that came along with a degree. He left school and went on a tour Europe. Most likely, the best thing that Seuss got out of Oxford was meeting his future wife, Helen Palmer.
Helen and Theodore were married in November of 1927. Shortly after, they moved to New York where Seuss began his literary career. In the beginning he mostly continued in the work he had done in college: contributing cartoons and essays to weekly or monthly magazines. Most of Seuss's early work was more adult in its humor and was uncharacteristic of his later children's literature. In the early years he also did some advertising work for a pesticide company. His first children's book, "And to think I saw it on Mulberry Street," was published in 1936. He had a good deal of trouble getting it published. He finally came into luck when he randomly ran into an old friend from Dartmouth on the street in New York. His friend just happened to the editor of the children's books division at Vanguard. With that, Dr. Seuss's career as a children's writer began. "The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins" came next followed by "The King's Stilts," and "Horton Hatches an Egg." In 1943 Seuss entered the Armed Signal Corps to do his part for World War II. He made war documentaries under director, Frank Caps. After the war he spent sometime in Japan and then settled in La Jolla, California to continue work on his children's books.
The Butter Battle Book was Dr. Seuss's most controversial work. Although it was intended as a children's book, it contains an adult theme. The story is about two warring groups the Yooks and the Zooks. The source of the conflict is a disagreement over which is the proper way to butter bread; is it butter side up or butter side down. The fighting continues for many years and finally escalates to a nuclear level. It ends with one Zook and one Yook, each waiting to drop a bomb that will destroy the other group completely. The book contains some obvious messages about the dangers and the silliness of war. In interviews about "The Butter Battle Book," Dr. Seuss has said that he left the ending unresolved in order to avoid being popaganisitic and unrealistic because in real life the answers to questions about war are not always clear cut either.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
In 1984 Dr. Seuss was about to turn eighty. Since his first published children's book, "And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street" in 1937, he had achieved outstanding success as a writer and illustrator. He had become a household name. Children, parents and literary critics received "The Butter Battle Book" enthusiastically. The negative criticism of the book centered almost completely on its content and not on its literary merit. The story of the ongoing battle between the Yooks and Zooks in "The Butter Battle Book" closely paralleled the real life paranoia of the Cold War. Ruth K. MacDonald wrote, "of all Dr. Seuss's books, The Butter Battle Book is the most controversial because it deals with mutually assured self-destruction by nuclear weapons." Critics and parents worried that nuclear war was not an appropriate topic for young children. The inconclusive ending was an especially worrisome point. The book leaves the reader wondering who will be destroyed, the Yooks or the Zooks. Will someone drop the bomb, or will the conflict end peacefully? It was a heavy topic even for an adult reader. In an article that appeared in the New York Times titled; "Yooks, Zooks, and the Bomb," Roger Sutton wrote, "The Butter Battle Book [and others] oversimplify the issues, project a naive view of the power of childlike innocence to avert catastrophe, portray instant and magical solutions to word tensions, and minimize the need for action as well as understanding." Part of what made the seriousness of "The Butter Battle Book" so controversial was that it followed a long line of light-hearted and silly children's books. The public had grown accustomed to the whimsical side of Dr. Seuss. Anne L Okie from the School Library Journal wrote, "The language of the story rhymes and amuses in customary Seuss fashion...one wonders, however, if a book for young children is a suitable vehicle for such an accurate and uncloaked description of the current stalemate in nuclear disarmament." Other criticism of Seuss's book was light and less severe. Lyla Hoffman of the Interracial Books for Children Bulletin complained of the "blatant sexism" and warned parents to discuss the unrealistic qualities of "The Butter Battle Book" with their children. Despite concerns from critics the book was overwhelmingly successful and after it won the Pulitzer Prize for Seuss there were many writers regretting complaining about the content. Sources: Sutton, Roger. "Yooks, Zooks and the Bomb" The New York Times Book Review. Feb. 22,1987. Hoffman, Lyla. "The Butter Battle Book (book review)" Interracial Books for Children Bulletin. 1984 Okie, Anne L. "The Butter Battle Book (book review)" School Library Journal. May 1984. MacDonald, Ruth K. "Dr. Seuss" Twayne Publishers, 1988.
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
In 1984 Dr. Seuss was about to turn eighty. Since his first published children's book, "And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street" in 1937, he had achieved outstanding success as a writer and illustrator. He had become a household name. Children, parents and literary critics received "The Butter Battle Book" enthusiastically. The negative criticism of the book centered almost completely on its content and not on its literary merit. The story of the ongoing battle between the Yooks and Zooks in "The Butter Battle Book" closely paralleled the real life paranoia of the Cold War. Ruth K. MacDonald wrote, "of all Dr. Seuss's books, The Butter Battle Book is the most controversial because it deals with mutually assured self-destruction by nuclear weapons." Critics and parents worried that nuclear war was not an appropriate topic for young children. The inconclusive ending was an especially worrisome point. The book leaves the reader wondering who will be destroyed, the Yooks or the Zooks. Will someone drop the bomb, or will the conflict end peacefully? It was a heavy topic even for an adult reader. In an article that appeared in the New York Times titled; "Yooks, Zooks, and the Bomb," Roger Sutton wrote, "The Butter Battle Book [and others] oversimplify the issues, project a naive view of the power of childlike innocence to avert catastrophe, portray instant and magical solutions to word tensions, and minimize the need for action as well as understanding." Part of what made the seriousness of "The Butter Battle Book" so controversial was that it followed a long line of light-hearted and silly children's books. The public had grown accustomed to the whimsical side of Dr. Seuss. Anne L Okie from the School Library Journal wrote, "The language of the story rhymes and amuses in customary Seuss fashion...one wonders, however, if a book for young children is a suitable vehicle for such an accurate and uncloaked description of the current stalemate in nuclear disarmament." Other criticism of Seuss's book was light and less severe. Lyla Hoffman of the Interracial Books for Children Bulletin complained of the "blatant sexism" and warned parents to discuss the unrealistic qualities of "The Butter Battle Book" with their children. Despite concerns from critics the book was overwhelmingly successful and after it won the Pulitzer Prize for Seuss there were many writers regretting complaining about the content. Sources: Sutton, Roger. "Yooks, Zooks and the Bomb" The New York Times Book Review. Feb. 22,1987. Hoffman, Lyla. "The Butter Battle Book (book review)" Interracial Books for Children Bulletin. 1984 Okie, Anne L. "The Butter Battle Book (book review)" School Library Journal. May 1984. MacDonald, Ruth K. "Dr. Seuss" Twayne Publishers, 1988.
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
"The Butter Battle Book" was published in 1984. It was received well and became an immediate addition to the New York Times Bestseller list. Unlike many other bestsellers of the 20th century, there wasn't a lot of mystery about what made "The Butter Battle Book" such a tremendous success. There were two principle factors that rocketed the book to the top of the charts. The first and most influential factor was that it rode in on the momentum of years of successful Dr. Seuss books. The second was the fact that "The Butter Battle Book" had direct ties to a highly visible and controversial issue of its time. These element worked together to make the Butter Battle Book one of Dr. Seuss's greatest successes.
Since his first published children's book in 1936, Theodore Geisel, better known to the world as Dr. Seuss, wrote and illustrated more than thirty books. These books were read throughout the world by millions of children in just about everywhere. He was translated into twenty different languages including Japanese and Arabic. He achieved the kind of fame and recognition that most authors will never come close to reaching. Many of his earliest books are still available in their first edition printing. What is unique about Seuss's books is that many of them are just as popular today as they were when they were first published. "The Cat in the Hat" and "Green Eggs and Ham" are still read today in grade schools across the country. Children's Book authors often have an advantage over adult book authors in that their books are reread and kept with much greater frequency. The average American has probably read "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish" more than two or three times. He or she has probably not read "The Firm" more than once, however. Dr. Seuss had the advantage of writing for children, but not every children's author sees their name on the New York Times Bestseller list. So what was it that set him apart from the competition and made him a legend? The answer is not simple or formulaic. It's a lot of things that came together and made for creative genius.
One thing that distinguished the books of Dr. Seuss from other children's authors is that Dr. Seuss never underestimated his readers. His books were intelligent and thoughtful while others patronized children, feeding them fluff. He revolutionized reading for young children. In 1955 William Spaulding, from the education division of Houghton Mifflin Publishing, challenged Theodore Geisel to write a book for beginning readers. Spaulding was a strong critic of the school primer. He complained that a child could not be encouraged to read if he or she was bored to death with mundane stories of Jane or Tom. It took Geisel over a year to finalize his most famous creation, "The Cat in the Hat." The book became an instant success and changed the face of children's reader forever. One critic called it, "probably the most influential first-grade reader since McGuffey" (Morgan, 156). At first glance, the book may not seem all that spectacular, but one of Dr. Seuss's greatest gifts was the ability to make what he did look easy. In writing "The Cat in the Hat" he was limited to a list of 225 words that would be appropriate for an early reader. Most of the 225 were nouns, and not one was an adjective. Anyone who could underestimate the talents of Dr. Seuss has probably never tried to write a successful book that children would enjoy while limited to only a very small vocabulary and a simple prose style.
Another thing that made Dr. Seuss special was his creativity. He had the kind of imagination that is extremely rare to find in adults. He was gifted both as an illustrator and as a writer. His artwork was unique and colorful and identifiable only with him. He had his own style of drawing and writing that became his book trademark. Colorful pictures with hilarious figures, long and thin with expressive faces; characters with names like Horton and Thidwick, the Whos, the Zooks; made up words that rhymed and rolled from your mouth or created an impossible tongue twister: these are a few of things that were purely Seussian. His unique style is still emulated and copied today. If you browse through the Internet you will come across just a few of the many tributes to his work. Things like, "The Monica Lewinsky Scandal as Told by Dr. Seuss." It's just a small example of the influence that he still has today, years after his death. The Seuss presence is alive in "The Butter Battle Book" and it contains a lot of what are considered trademarks of his style. But what made the book such a success has also to do with what made it different from his typical work. In writing "The Butter Battle Book" he surprised his fans by taking on a topic much heavier than his audience had ever experienced from him. Writing a children's book about nuclear war was probably one of the bravest things Theodore Geisel did in his career. Luckily, it worked to his advantage.
The second factor that contributed to the success of Dr. Seuss's "Butter Battle Book" was the books relevance to current events. The 1980s was predominantly defined by paranoia about nuclear war and Seuss's book really hit home with his adult readers. The story of the "Butter Battle Book" centers around an ongoing struggle between two warring groups, the Yooks and the Zooks. The dispute began because the two sides could not agree about which is the proper way to butter ones bread. The Yooks contended that it was best to eat your bread butter side up. The Zooks felt that butter side down was the best. The story is told from the point of view of a grandfather Yook telling his grandchild the history of the war, which has gone on for many, many years. As time passed the battle escalated, with the weaponry growing more and more advanced. As the book nears its end, the grandfather heads out to put an end to the fighting once and for all. He takes with him the "Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo," a tiny bomb that is capable of destroying the entire Zook population. When he gets to the wall that divides the two nations however, he finds a Zook waiting for him there. The Zook has a bomb too. As the story closes, the Yook and the Zook stand at opposition on the wall, each waiting to drop the bomb. The Grandson asks, "Who's going to drop it? Will you" Or will he?" And the Yook grandfather answers, "Be patient, we'll see. We will see." The tie between the theme of the book and the issue of the arms race is not even thinly veiled in the story. The "Butter Battle Book," could easily be seen as a criticism of the dangers and silliness of war and especially, nuclear power. This characteristic may have been a factor in the books popularity. At the time of its publishing in 1984, Americans were in a state of confusion about the benefits and consequences of war.
The 1980s were not a high point for popularity in the U.S. government. Political disasters of the previous decades, like Watergate and Vietnam created a dissatisfaction among people in the United States with the presidency and with elected officials in general. People began to question the ability of politicians to make decisions that affected their lives and the lives of others. During the Reagan administration moral picked up a bit, but a few big blows like the taking of hostages in Tehran set back any advances that were made. Theodore Geisel was among those who had lost confidence in the U.S. government in the mid 80s. "The Butter Battle Book" was a small reflection these views. To Geisel, nuclear war was the ultimate example of the dangers of political power. His criticism was that one man, or one group of men could decide the fate of thousands, even millions.
A second current event that contributed to the reception of the "Butter Battle Book" was of course, the Cold War. The 1980s was predominantly defined by an increasing pressure from the public to and the Cold War. What had begun several decades ago had continued to escalate for longer than anyone had ever expected. In fact, it was hard to remember or define exactly how it had all begun. Some traced its roots all the way back to World War II. Although allies in the war, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged from the world crisis with growing animosity towards one another that would only increase in the years that followed. In World War II the U.S. had established itself as the last remaining world super power, but after the war it became clear that the Soviet union meant to challenge that status. For years, the two countries existed in a state of complete animosity toward one another. No real battles ever broke out, but often times it seemed as if the world was on the verge of a third World War. What made the threat of war even more serious was the position of the two countries as nuclear powers. If fighting ever were to break out, nuclear war could destroy entire countries and wipe out millions of innocent lives.
It is not hard to look at the "Butter Battle Book" and see the warring Yooks and Zooks as representations of the United States and the Soviet Union. It is a parallel that was easily drawn back in 1984. The subject of Dr. Seuss's book created a controversy among critics because they were not sure that it was appropriate for school-aged children. Ruth K. MacDonald wrote, "of all Dr. Seuss's books, The Butter Battle Book is the most controversial because it deals with mutually assured self-destruction by nuclear weapons" (212). It may have been shocking for readers who had come to love Dr. Seuss as the writer of silly and light-hearted books for children, but it made a deep impression on everyone who read it. He took a complex issue of the times and simplified it into child-like terms. No one could justify a war over which is the proper way to eat one's buttered bread, and when placing war in such a context it made people examine more closely the repercussions of war in general.
"The Butter Battle Book" was arguably one of Theodore Geisel's greatest achievements. While in the process of writing the book, he sent a letter to his nephew calling it, "the best book I've ever written" (Morgan, 250). His publisher, Random House, was equally excited. The people there called it, "probably the most important book Dr. Seuss has ever created" (Morgan, 251). Neither Seuss nor Random House were far off in their predictions. The book won Geisel his one and only Pulitzer Prize. The feelings about the book are probably best summed up in the words of one of its greatest endorsers, Maurice Sendak:
"Surprisingly, wonderfully, the case for total disarmament has been brilliantly made by our acknowledged master of nonsense, Dr. Seuss...Only a genius of the ridiculous could possibly deal with the cosmic and lethal madness of the nuclear arms race...He has done the world a service" (Morgan, 252).
Works Cited:
MacDonald, Ruth K. "Dr. Seuss" Twayne Publishers, 1988.
Morgan, Judith and Neul. "Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel", 1992.
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