Green eggs and ham on a bet

greenWe often just read books and never think about how or why they were written, especially children’s books.  Sometimes, the reason is obvious (a book about children with diabetes, for example), but most of the time, we just think that authors are very creative and come up with a book out of thin air.  If you’ve ever written anything creative, you’ll know this isn’t true at all.  Many times, authors have been influenced by a story in the news, a world problem or just a simple picture and an idea is born out of that.  What about one of the most creative children’s authors of our time, Dr. Seuss?  It turns out that there are some interesting facts behind his books.

Bennett Cerf, Theodor Geisel’s (Dr. Seuss) editor, challenged him to write a book using 50 words or less.  He actually made this challenge when Seuss was writing The Cat in the Hat (which used 225 words) but Geisel never backed down from a challenge and wrote Green Eggs and Ham with exactly 50 different words.  Those words are:

a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you.

Do you think you could write a book in 50 words or less?  Although the effort seems enormous, the beautiful simplicity of this book is what has made it timeless to generations of readers.  You can find out a lot about Dr. Seuss and the ideas behind his books at Mental Floss. If you’d like to know more about the life of Dr. Seuss, Wikipedia has some great information as well as plenty of great links.  Or you can visit the official Dr. Seuss website for some fun and games here.





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Published in: on January 16, 2009 at 7:56 am  Comments (9)  
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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] quintessential book for children, Green Eggs and Ham, turns 50 today. The book was written after Suess’s editor bet him he couldn’t write a book containing only 50 words. Too bad Suess died before the advent of […]

  2. Wow, I had know idea! That is so cool. Thank you so much for sharing. I grew up loving this book and now I appreciate it even more.

  3. Crazy, I didn’t know that. Classic book though. Definitely one of my childhood favorites.

  4. […] you know…that Dr. Seuss wrote “Green Eggs and Ham” because of a bet with his editor that he couldn’t write a meaningful book using only 50 or fewer individual […]

  5. I was reading that to my son last night (from a collection book) and the preface to the story is interesting. This was Seuss’ last book, and it’s regarded as somewhat of a memoir of his own life. It was the only book that he did not bring to the publisher himself, as he was too sick. They came to him and he chose all the color palettes from his bed.

    • Interesting! I didn’t know that. Thanks…

  6. […] for example, that the immortal Dr. Seuss children’s book, Green Eggs and Ham, was written on a bet with Random House editor Bennett Cerf.  Mr. Cerf bet Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) that he couldn’t write a book using no more than […]

  7. […] Seuss was once given a challenge by his editor. Write a book using only 50 different words. That’s the vocabulary he had to draw on for the story (as a comparison, The Cat in the Hat […]

  8. this is really good for kids cool


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