Dr Seuss And The Butter Battles



"...most of my books don't carry heavy morals.

The morals sneak in, as they do in all drama.

Every story's got to have a winner, so I happen to make the good guys win...

it's probably a pretty dirty thing I'm doing.

When I do it, though, I don't consider it propaganda; I consider it making sense." - Dr Seuss

Twenty years on from his death, Theodor 'Dr Seuss' Geisel remains one of the best-loved children's authors in America.

Famed for his witty and often subversive stories such as, 'The Cat in the Hat' and 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas!' his whimsical characters and playful rhymes are deeply embedded in American childhoods and those of children around the world.

However, few readers are aware of the surprising political subtext to many of his tales.

One of Geisel's earliest jobs was as a political cartoonist for the left-wing newspaper PM in the 1940s.

These cartoons reveal the beginnings of a Seussian universe - prototypes of Yertle the Turtle and the Cat in the Hat sit alongside images of Hitler and Charles Lindbergh - attacked with artistic fervour and biting wit.

Despite the move to children's literature, Dr Seuss' political sympathies still bubbled under the surface of his innocuous sounding rhymes where his cast of characters rallied against anti-Semitism, fascism, the arms race and environmental recklessness.

With contributions from his former editor Michael Frith, the writers Michael Rosen and Giles Andreae and the political cartoonist Dave Brown we explore the political passions of Dr Seuss.

Produced by Eleanor McDowall

A Falling Tree Production for BBC Radio 4