Green Eggs and Ham
by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 3-8

A picture book about persistence...and resistance

What makes the story of Green Eggs and Ham so memorable? Is it

  • the absurd words?
  • the absurd pictures?
  • the infectious rhymes and rhythms?

You could make a case for all of that. But the big question for me is...

What makes it such a perennial hit with children? And I think the answer to that is the character Sam-I-Am's relentless - and repetitive - persistence.

Like Seuss's Green Eggs, most books are about a character trying to achieve something. Sam-I-Am is trying to get that pompous unnamed fellow with the hat to give green eggs and ham a chance. But here's what's different...

Most protagonists try different approaches in their quest to achieve their goal. They drastically change their methods as they aim for success.

Sam-I-Am, on the other hand, keeps trying the same basic approach over and over again.

Would you like green eggs & ham:

  • here or there?
  • with a mouse?
  • in a house?
  • with a fox?
  • in a box?
  • in a tree?
  • on a train?
  • in the rain?
  • with a goat?
  • on a boat?

Would you, would you, WOULD YOU, WOULD YOU...

Sound like anyone you know? Let me give you a hint...

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?...

Young kids don't have a lot of tricks up their sleeves. So to get what they want they use repetition - they just KEEP asking.

enhanced image from The Cat in the Hat

The approach, to us, seems absurd. "I said, 'No.'" But hey - repetition is all they've got!

So imagine how gratifying it is to kids to witness earnest Sam-I-Am pose the same request again and again...and to finally meet with success. The grumpy man with the hat agrees to try the disgusting-looking food, if only to shut Sam-I-Am up! But then, guess what?...

Old grumpy finds he likes green eggs and ham. It turns out the kid - I mean, Sam-I-Am - was right!

Therein lies the magic of Dr. Seuss's (Theodor Geisel) 1960 classic. The kid wins. And the kid was right.

Kids lose a lot, and they're wrong a lot. Want to give your kid a healthy dose of winning and being right? Green Eggs and Ham is my prescription of choice.

One last thought

I really want convey the achievement that is Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham. Know that this book was meant to be what we today call an "Early Reader." (Seuss called them "Beginner Books.")

These books, with their reduced vocabularies, have always tended to be the least artful of children's books, meant for a new reader to slog through, rather than enjoy.

Instead, this book - like so many of Seuss's Beginner Books - became an instant classic that parents couldn't wait to buy. In other words, we bought them to read to our 3 and 4 year olds instead of just waiting until our kids turned 5 and 6 and saying, "Hey, see if you can get through this thing."

That means Green Eggs and Ham and the other Beginner Books do double duty. They become familiar books that our kids have had read to them, before becoming treasured keepsakes that our kids can read to themselves.

More top sellers of the 20th century.

Complete Seuss book list. (By the way, Green Eggs and Ham is included in at least one Dr. Seuss collection. Let us show you!)

Read more of Steve's reviews.

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