In our belated homage to Dr. Seuss on his March 2nd birthday, the Neighborhood presents a video of one of Seuss’ greatest–and most controversial–works.
In 1984, Seuss’ The Butter Battle Book caused a sensation in classrooms, libraries and especially the corridors of power in the Reagan administration. A satirical parable about the arms race, militarism and especially nuclear war, The Butter Battle Book was so controversial that public libraries across America banned the book over its viewpoints.
Given the Cold War hysteria of the early Eighties, the book’s content was rife for discussion.
The book chronicles the long-simmering conflict between the Yooks and the Zooks, two cultures at war over breakfast food. The Yooks butter their bread on top, while the Zooks butter theirs on the bottom. This innocuous difference leads to an escalating arms race, culminating in the development of an “Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo”–a weapon designed to wipe out all life with no counter-defense. The book ends as both generals hold their tiny Armegeddon devices, ready to drop at any moment.
Like the Lorax, Seuss’ other well-known political work (then about the environment), The Butter Battle Book is not your traditional feel-good children’s story. A cliffhanger is left as we don’t know what happens with the Yooks and Zooks and their factories of death.
Yet Seuss’ nuclear fable differs in that it feels much more hopeless, more helpless–and thus much more sinister.
Attached is the 1989 animated special of the book by TNT. It was created by an equally controversial animator in Ralph Bakshi, who created a work very close to the wording and intent of the original book. Narrated by charles Durning, the special was so well made that Seuss himself considered it the most faithful adaptation of his work ever made.
This is my all-time favorite Seuss work, and is brimming with classroom debate and discussion at any age.
Enjoy…and stay away from butter altogether. It’ll kill you in the end :)