The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss deals with the serious subject of the Cold War and the arms race between the United States and Russia and resulted in the book being banned from some library shelves. (wikipedia.com) The Butter Battle Book is book 3 of 365 books that will be reviewed by the San Francisco Children’s Fiction Examiner in 365 days; book 2 was Berlioz the Bear by Jan Brett.
Author and Illustrator: Dr. Seuss
Publisher: Random House, INC. (1984)
Have I Read the Book Before: No
Awards Won: New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Recommended Age: 4 – 8
Synopsis: Although no one is quite sure when it started, there is a Wall between the Yooks and the Zooks. The Yooks eat their bread butter side up and the the Zooks eat their bread butter side down and there is just no way the two groups can tolerate one another when there are such serious differences between them. A grandfather takes his grandson to the Wall that divides them and tells about his own experiences as a youth who was part of the Yooks on the Zook-Watching Border Patrol. As the years passed, each group built bigger and better weapons to protect their side of the Wall and keep the other side out. Until one day they both came up with the same weapon; the Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo.
Review: Although the requisite contraptions with tongue-twisting names are present in this story, all the lightheartedness of books like The Cat in the Hat and Hop on Pop is missing. This book is written with a much more serious tone like The Lorax and Horton Hears a Who. When this book came out it was praised by some as a book that should be read by “all those who shape nuclear weapons policy in the United States and the Soviet Union.” (Congressman Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts). However, others were not so thrilled with its message and it was removed from some library shelves because it was claimed that the book reduced the seriousness of the problems between the U.S. and Russia to something as trivial as which side of the bread should be buttered.
While the arms race between the United States and Russia no longer exists, The Butter Battle Book still explores the important issue of escalating violence and the “an eye-for-an-eye” mentality that not only exists at an international level but also in the cities, schoolyards, and homes of some to this day. It also provides a way to get that lesson to children in a silly story; children of all ages can certainly see how ridiculous it is to argue of buttered pieces of bread and it can allow parents and educators to open discussion of more serious matters of disagreement between groups and individuals.
Dr. Suess books can be found in every library and bookstore across the United States. If you live in northern California, visit one of these libraries to check out The Butter Battle Book.
Shasta County Library
Monterey County Free Libraries
Kings County Library
Fresno County Public Library
Alameda County Library