Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham was written on a bet. In 1960 the co-founder of Random House, Bennet Cerf, bet Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) that he couldn’t write a children’s book using fifty or fewer distinct words. Geisel created Green Eggs and Ham using precisely fifty words and it went on to be his most popular book. To date it has sold over 200 million copies. Despite the book’s success, Cerf never made good on the bet.
Green Eggs and Ham, like many of Geisel’s books, takes a valuable lesson and wraps it inside a fantastical yarn. Kids have way too much fun reading his books to be aware of the lasting messages they carefully implant. The Teaching Children Philosophy website says Green Eggs and Ham “raises the question of the role that experience plays in the formation of our beliefs.”
In 1991, the year Geisel died, civil rights activist and former Democratic presidential candidate Reverend Jesse Jackson read the book on Saturday Night Live. His straight-faced delivery is considered a comedic classic. That same year, the People’s Republic of China lifted the ban on reading Green Eggs and Ham imposed in 1965. Authorities said they were unhappy with what they called the book’s “portrayal of early Marxism.” Just think of how many Chinese children missed out on the joy of reading this delightful book during the course of the ban.
“I do so like green eggs and ham! Thank you! Thank you, Sam-I-Am.”