Dr. Seuss's Bartholomew and the Oobleck
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
Bartholomew tells King Derwin to apologize
Every good horror movie has one character who can see that the others are headed for trouble. Bartholomew Cubbins is just that character here.
Young Bartholomew Cubbins is King Derwin's loyal page in the Kingdom of Didd.
The king, in his old age (we met him some years ago in an earlier book, also featuring Bartholomew) has become rather bitter, as potentates are wont to do. He's in charge of almost everything he surveys from his lofty castle. But he has no control over what falls from the sky.
And he resents it.
Rain, snow, fog, even sunshine - they're all affronts to his greatness. He resolves to make something else plop down from the heavens.
He calls upon the royal magicians, despite Bartholomew's urging him not to. The magicians are a dark, rhyming lot, and though they've never tried it, they are confident that there's one thing they're capable of conjuring from the sky.
What is it? The king doesn't care. So long as it's never fallen before, and so long as His Majesty summoned it, he wants it.
And he gets it.
Oobleck ("Ew! Blech!") turns out to be green and Super Glue sticky, and the quantities in which it falls threaten the very existence of the kingdom.
Bartholomew and the Oobleck
Bartholomew seems a very different character than he did in The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, and in ways that make this a much better book. (Seuss earned a Caldecott Honor for this one.)
There he was passive, when only his own life was at stake. (And the king was more a benign, hapless dictator.) Here Bartholomew is a selfless fighter for good, standing up to the power-mad king for the sake of the kingdom.
And while he's unable to dissuade the king from ordering the oobleck, it turns out Bartholomew wields the secret to making it stop:
Saying you're sorry. Admitting you were wrong. Bartholomew actually persuades entitled old King Derwin to do just that.
Bartholomew and the Oobleck is a fascinating read for Seuss fans. Published in 1949, future Seuss books are presaged in words, themes and images, perhaps none moreso than his deeper works like The Lorax and Yertle the Turtle.
(There's even a picture of a concerned fish poking his head out of his upended bowl. See if you can spot it!)
More Caldecott honorees.
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