Green Eggs and Ham is a classic children's book written and illustrated by Dr Seuss1.
The book originated with a wager between Seuss and his publisher Bennett Cerf, who bet $50 that Seuss couldn't write a book using just 50 words after the completion of The Cat in the Hat, which used 220. Despite Seuss's success, Cerf apparently never paid off on the bet.
Green Eggs and Ham is part of Seuss's 'Beginner Books' series, a collection written in a very simple vocabulary for young readers. As mentioned, the book contains just 50 different words, of which 49 are monosyllabic. Young readers love the sing-song rhyming style of the book and the constant repetition of words. At 62 pages and filled with rich Dr Seuss illustrations, this book is a joy for children and adults alike.
The story is told in a cumulative form, with a list of circumstances that gets repeated as it gets longer. An example of this is found in the lead character's refusal to eat green eggs and ham:
Not in the dark. Not on a train.
Not in a car. Not in a tree.
I do not like them, Sam you see.
Not in a house. Not in a box.
Not with a mouse. Not with a fox.
I will not eat them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere!
There are two main characters in Green Eggs and Ham. One is named Sam-I-am who is drawn wearing a yellow tunic and a red top hat. The story's other main character is the protagonist, though he is never named, who is drawn in black and white and wears a black top hat.
Sam is filled with energy and enthusiasm as he races about. He is also much shorter than the other character. The protagonist is grumpy and simply wants to be left alone to read his newspaper as the book begins.
The story's plot centres on Sam's efforts to get his friend to try green eggs and ham. The friend refuses to eat the dish, claiming he does not like them. Sam then tries several different ways to get his friend to eat them, but without success.
The story ends when Sam's friend agrees to try green eggs and ham and discovers that he loves them. The final scene in the story shows the duo standing together with an empty platter while Sam's friend gushes Thank you! Thank you, Sam-I-am.
The reversal of roles - having a child-sized character make a grown-up eat something that he doesn't want to - appeals to many children and probably accounts for much of the book's popularity. Of course parents like the fact that, in the end, the character does try the food and ends up liking it!
Green Eggs and Ham was first published in August, 1960 and has never gone out of print, selling well over seven million copies. It consistently ranks as Dr Seuss's most popular book and is almost always near the top in surveys of popular children's books.
In the USA, green eggs and ham is a popular dish in schools around Dr Seuss's birthday - 2 March2.
Most recipes for 'real-life' green eggs and ham involve liberal use of green food colouring.
There is however a dish in which spinach is cooked with scrambled eggs giving them a greenish tint. So you might find 'green eggs and ham' on a breakfast menu, particularly in the southern USA.
You may think you won't like them, but as Sam-I-am says:
Try them! Try them!
And you may.
Try them and you may, I say.