Many of us grew up enjoying the wildly imaginative rhyming works, written and illustrated by Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to us as Dr. Seuss. Bartholomew and the Oobleck, If I Ran the Zoo, Horton Hears a Who!, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and many other books involving “ludicrous situations pursued with relentless logic” were the core of many a child’s personal library.
In 1957, Seuss produced a classic children’s tale, The Cat in the Hat. This work was followed by a series of books employing an ever more limited vocabulary: Ten Apples up on Top!, Hop on Pop, Fox in Socks, and the book that initiated this trend (and is perhaps the best known of all of Seuss’ efforts), Green Eggs and Ham.
But what prompted this minimalist trend by Dr. Seuss?
Bennett Cerf, Theodor Geisel’s (Dr. Seuss) editor, challenged him to write a book using 50 different words or less, and only using the words on an average first-grader’s vocabulary list. Geisel never backed down from a challenge and wrote Green Eggs and Ham, a classic children’s work that many of us can still recite from memory, 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.