The Butter Battle Book

The Butter Battle Book is a rhyming story written by Dr. Seuss. It was published by Random House on January 12, 1984. It is an anti-war story; specifically, a parable about arms races in general, mutually assured destruction and nuclear weapons in particular. The Butter Battle Book was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

This book was written during the Cold War era and reflects the concerns of the time, especially the perceived possibility that all life on Earth could be destroyed in a nuclear war. It can also be seen as a satirical work, with its depiction of a deadly war based on a senseless conflict over something as trivial as a breakfast food. The concept of a war based on toast is similar to the war between Lilliput and Blefuscu in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, which was nominally based on an argument over the correct end to crack an egg once soft-boiled.

The Butter Battle Book
The Butter Battle Book cover
AuthorDr. Seuss
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's literature
PublisherRandom House
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover and paperback)
[Fic] 19
LC ClassPZ8.3.G276 Bu 1984
Preceded byHunches in Bunches 
Followed byYou're Only Old Once! 


The Yooks and Zooks live on opposite sides of a long curving wall. The narrator of the story is a Yook child whose grandfather takes him to the wall, explaining he is a retired soldier. The Yooks wear blue clothes; the Zooks wear orange. The primary dispute between the two cultures is that the Yooks eat their bread with the butter-side up, while the Zooks eat their bread with the butter-side down. The conflict between the two sides leads to an escalating arms race, which results in the threat of mutual assured destruction.

The race begins when a Zook named Van Itch slingshots the Yook patrolman's (Grandpa in his younger years) "Tough-Tufted Prickly Snick-Berry Switch" (a switch-esque truncheon covered with prickly burrs). The Yooks then develop a machine with three slingshots interlinked, called a "Triple-Sling Jigger". This works once; but the next day Van Itch counterattacks with his own creation: The "Jigger-Rock Snatchem", a machine with three nets to fling the rocks fired by the Triple-Sling Jigger back to the Yooks' side. Every time the patrolman is defeated, he reports this to his general, who tells him not to worry ("My Bright Boys are thinking; my Bright Boys are thinking"), and three intelligent Yooks are shown drafting plans for a more modern weapon.

The Yooks then create a gun called the "Kick-A-Poo Kid", loaded with "powerful Poo-A-Doo powder and ants' eggs and bees' legs and dried-fried clam chowder", and carried by a trained Spaniel named Daniel. The Zooks counterattack with an "Eight-Nozzled Elephant-Toted Boom Blitz", a machine that shoots "high-explosive sour cherry stone pits". The Yooks then devise the brand new "Utterly Sputter": a large blue vehicle mainly intended "to sprinkle blue goo all over the Zooks". The Zooks counterattack with a Sputter identical to the Yooks'. Eventually, each side possesses a small but extremely destructive red bomb called the "Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo", and neither has any defense against it, so while the Yooks' patrolmen and Van Itch drop theirs, the Yooks and Zooks will stay underground so they won't get blown away.

No resolution is reached by the book's end, with the generals of both sides on the wall poised to drop their bombs and waiting for the other to strike. The narrator asks his grandfather, "Who's gonna drop it? Will you or will he?" To which Grandpa replies, "Be patient. We'll see. We will see."

Television special

There was an animated TV special by animator and filmmaker Ralph Bakshi, narrated by Charles Durning and produced by and aired on TNT on November 13, 1989. The special followed the book closely, notably in its preservation of its original cliffhanger ending, with the title card "The end... maybe" at the conclusion of the story. Seuss himself called the short the most faithful adaptation of his work.[1]

The cliffhanger ending was undone by the Berlin Wall opening just four days before the TV show aired. The wall had been taken as a simple fact of life in the book. As the TV show aired floods of East Germans poured though the wall, celebrating the end of Soviet domination.[2]

Butter battle book
Custom painted display in Atlanta, Georgia (1993)


Censorship and analysis

The Butter Battle Book was removed from the shelves of at least one Canadian public library during the Cold War because of the book's position regarding the arms race.[3][4]

An article in the July 27, 1984 issue of the conservative magazine National Review found it plausible that the book was not more popular because of Seuss' promotion of a theme of "moral equivalence", where the difference between the Soviet Union and the United States was equivalent to a disagreement over the proper side on which to butter bread.[5]

On the other hand, Roger S. Clark, a professor at Rutgers University School of Law, argued in an article in the New York Law School Law Review that "The Butter Battle Book ... captures the arms race and the development of weapons of war. ... The book struck such a chord with me when it came out in 1984 (which was also Seuss’s eightieth birthday). Something Orwellian about the timing! While its message is timeless, I suspect Seuss was well aware of the context he was writing in. It was a time when many people the world over, especially organizations of doctors and lawyers, were groping their way toward the massive civil society effort that led eventually to the advisory proceedings on nuclear weapons being brought through the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.N. General Assembly."[6]


  1. ^ Dr. Seuss considered the 1989 television special of The Butter Battle Book to be the most faithful rendition of any of his works.
  2. ^ News, A. B. C. "Video: Nov. 9, 1989: The Berlin Wall Falls". ABC News.
  3. ^ Schrader, Alvin M., and Canadian Library, Association (1995). Fear of Words: Censorship and the Public Libraries of Canada. Ottawa, Ont.: Canadian Library Association
  4. ^ "Challenged Books" University of Saskatchewan website
  5. ^ The Butter Battle Book, National Review, July 27, 1984, page 16
  6. ^ Clark, Roger S. "Is The Butter Battle Book’s Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo Banned? What Has International Law to Say About Weapons of Mass Destruction?" New York Law School Law Review (v.58 2013/14) pp.657-658

External links

Come over to My House

Come over to My House is a 1966 children's book written by Dr. Seuss and illustrated by Richard Erdoes. The name "Theo. LeSieg" was a pen name of Theodor Geisel, who is more commonly known by another pen name, Dr. Seuss.

The illustrations portray the various styles of homes that kids from around the world live in along with Seuss's recognizable prose. Throughout the book they also cover what kids eat, how they sleep (Japanese wooden pillows), play (sledding on pine needles), and even clean-up afterwards (Polynesian hot spring).

The book was the 44th in the Beginner Books series, in between B-43: You Will Live Under the Sea (1966) by F. & M. Phleger and B-45: Babar Loses His Crown (1967), by Laurent de Brunhoff.

Great Day for Up!

Great Day for Up! is a book written by Dr. Seuss and illustrated by Quentin Blake. It was published by Random House on August 28, 1974.

Green Eggs and Ham (TV series)

Green Eggs and Ham is an upcoming American animated television series based on the 1960 Dr. Seuss book of the same title that is set to premiere in the fall of 2019 on Netflix.


Hejji was a short-lived 1935 comic strip, an early work and the only comic strip by prominent children's author Dr. Seuss (pseudonym of Theodor Geisel). Hejji was produced by Geisel during the Great Depression, two years before the publication of his first book.

Distributed by William Randolph Hearst's King Features Syndicate, Hejji began publication on April 7, 1935, as a Sunday strip. A comic strip with an unusually brief publication period, it was cancelled after three months, the final comic published on June 23, 1935.

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! is a children's book credited to Dr. Seuss "with some help from Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith". The book is based on verses and sketches created by Seuss before his death in 1991, and was expanded to book length and completed by writer Prelutsky and illustrator Smith for publication in 1998.

The story surrounds a school that is well liked by its students notably because of its many eccentric teachers. However, the students must make a good grade on a standardized test (which turns out in the end to be a revising test on multiple subjects they regularly learn) lest they be sent to an adjacent school, which requires uniforms to be worn and is incredibly dull.

Horton Hears a Who! (TV special)

Horton Hears a Who! is a 1970 television special based on the Dr. Seuss book of the same name, Horton Hears a Who!. It was produced and directed by Chuck Jones who previously produced the Seuss special How the Grinch Stole Christmas! for MGM Television and first broadcast March 19, 1970 on CBS. The special contains songs with lyrics by Seuss and music by Eugene Poddany, who previously wrote songs for Seuss' book, The Cat in the Hat Song Book.

Hunches in Bunches

Hunches in Bunches is a children's book written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel under the pen name Dr. Seuss and published by Random House on October 12, 1982.

I Wish That I Had Duck Feet

I Wish That I Had Duck Feet is a children's book written by Dr. Seuss, illustrated by B. Tobey, and first published in 1965. "Theo. LeSieg" was a pen name of Theodor Geisel, who is more commonly known as Dr. Seuss. The story is about a boy who wishes that he could have many different animal and mechanical body parts. For each body part, he finds fantastic uses for them, and their problem areas. At the end, he decides that he is happiest being himself.

In Search of Dr. Seuss

In Search of Dr. Seuss is a 1994 American television film chronicling the adventures of a news reporter (Kathy Najimy) who enters the world of Dr. Seuss by opening a magical book. It came to DVD in 2003 and again in 2008 as a bonus feature for the TV special Horton Hears a Who!. Also starring (in order of appearance) Matt Frewer, Christopher Lloyd, Andrea Martin, David Paymer, Patrick Stewart, Andrae Crouch, Robin Williams, and Eileen Brennan.

My Book about ME

My Book about ME is a children's book written but not illustrated by Theodor Geisel under the pen name Dr. Seuss and published by Random House on September 12, 1969.

Political messages of Dr. Seuss

The political messages of Theodor Seuss Geisel, best known as Dr. Seuss, are found in many of his books. Geisel, a cartoonist and author for children, was also a liberal and a moralist who expressed his views in his books through the use of ridicule, satire, wordplay, nonsense words, and wild drawings to take aim at bullies, hypocrites, and demagogues.

Geisel's political ideas can be found in books such as: The Lorax, Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!, The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who!, Yertle the Turtle, The Sneetches, and The Butter Battle Book. Geisel also had a career in making political cartoons.

Read Across America

Read Across America is an initiative on reading created by the National Education Association that began in 1997.One part of the project is National Read Across America Day, an observance in the United States held on the school day closest to March 2, the birthday of Dr. Seuss.

Scrambled Eggs Super!

Scrambled Eggs Super! is a 1953 book by American children's author Dr. Seuss. It tells of a boy named Peter T. Hooper, who makes scrambled eggs prepared from eggs of various exotic birds.

Society of Red Tape Cutters

The Society of Red Tape Cutters was a series of small articles published by newspapers during World War II to give recognition to military and political figures for keeping bureaucracy from hindering the war effort. Each announcement included a boilerplate "certificate" illustrated by Dr. Seuss and a synopsis of the inductee's actions.

The Cat's Quizzer

The Cat's Quizzer is a children's book written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel under the pen name Dr. Seuss and published by Random House on August 12, 1976.

The King's Stilts

The King's Stilts is a children's book written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel under the pen name Dr. Seuss, and published in 1939 by Random House. Unlike many Dr. Seuss books, it is narrated in prose rather than verse.

The Shape of Me and Other Stuff

The Shape of Me and Other Stuff is a children's book written and illustrated by Theodor Geisel under the pen name Dr. Seuss and published by Random House on July 12, 1973.

You're Only Old Once!

You're Only Old Once! A Book for Obsolete Children is a 1986 picture book for growing-up people by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel). Released on Geisel's eighty-second birthday, the book follows an elderly man on a visit to the Golden Years Clinic, where he endures long waits and bizarre medical tests.

You're Only Old Once! was written shortly after Geisel had suffered through a series of illnesses, during which he spent a considerable amount of time in hospital waiting rooms. To pass the time, he began sketching images of hospital machines and scenes of medical procedures. He later began to work those ideas into a book. Geisel quipped that he was "fed up with a social life consisting entirely of doctors".You're Only Old Once! was Seuss's first adult book since The Seven Lady Godivas, which was published in 1939. The Seven Lady Godivas sold fewer than 500 copies when it was first released, but You're Only Old Once! reached #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list, and remained on the list for over 60 weeks.The book's subtitle, A Book for Obsolete Children refers to a quote by Dr. Seuss describing why he did not enjoy writing for adults. After the failure of The Seven Lady Godivas, Seuss said in an interview, "Adults are just obsolete children, and the hell with them."


Zook can refer to the following:


Chris Zook, business writer

John Zook (born 1947), National Football League player

Frederic Zook, President of Ottawa University and former mayor of Ottawa, Kansas

George F. Zook (1885-1951), American educator

Matthew Zook, geographer

R. Harold Zook (1889-1949), American architect

Ron Zook (born 1954), American football coach

Samuel K. Zook (1821-63), Union army general killed at GettysburgPlaces:

Zook, Kansas, Pawnee County, Kansas

14267 Zook, an asteroidIn entertainment:

a creature designed by a contestant on the BBC game show Bamzooki

Zook (comics), a DC Comics alien associated with the Martian Manhunter

Zook, someone who eats their bread butter side down in Dr. Seuss's The Butter Battle Book

Zook (band), a Finnish rock band

Other works
Feature films
Short films
Television series
Television features

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