The Butter Battle Book - Dr. Seuss

We all are intimately familiar with the glorious rhyming and the honest joy of reading a Dr. Seuss book aloud. Considering some of the check-outs that my kindergartner has brought home this year - the kind I begrudgingly cracked open and read each night with the sort of over-taxed smile and forced lilt necessary to make it through the more inane children's books - seeing a Dr. Seuss was a great relief. One that I've never read or heard of to boot!

Unfortunately, the nightly recite until turn-in-time for this library book has probably already been nixed.

"That was boring."

Sigh. Even though I poured every ounce of theatre into that first reading, I have to admit that I tend to agree. Not only that, but I had to do some quick thinking about how to talk about the book with my kiddo... in a surprising turn for a Dr. Seuss book, I wish I would have known the subject matter before diving in.

This book, published in 1984, is anti-war cautionary tale. It probably has good intentions. There's no denying that it could be said to be relevant to today.


As told by a Zook grandfather to his dear grandson, the Yooks butter their bread on the wrong side, which cannot be tolerated - so a wall had to be built, patrolled and armed. But with each Zook arm, came a better, more spectacular Yook arm - to the Zook Tough-Tufted Prickly Snick-Berry Switch, a Yook VanItch Sling shot to smash it smithereens. And so it goes...until they both come up with the "Big-Boy Boomeroo" which will destroy both Zook and Yook land with loads of toxic blue goo (or something very close to that).

Zooks and Yooks march underground. The last page, a cliffhanger, a face off between the two sides ready to drop the annihilating boomeroo. The question hangs, "will they or won't they?".

The problem I faced with this possibly timely and important subject matter is that it's more relevant to adults than it is to my child. We're not born with war, we teach it. It was boring because for my kid the conflict was worse than stupid, it wasn't even something he could comprehend. Why would two people be so angry over which side the bread is buttered on? Beyond the fact that I had trouble with the story that equates some real moral issues with something as simple as a matter of opinion - I was faced with a slightly deeper dilemma - do I explain to him that this type of supreme idiocy exists in the world? Surely he'll find that out for himself soon enough?

Because it was bedtime I decided to put off that revelation for another day and preserve whatever quiet innocence I could for just a little longer. I'm sure many people would disagree with me there, but I think a parent should follow their own compass.

"It was boring. Last book for the night, should we let the Pigeon drive the bus, again?"