How could we write about literary food without including one of the most famous fictional dishes ever? Of course I’m talking about Green Eggs and Ham!
Green Eggs and Ham is iconic. Published in 1960, it still lands in the top 10 best-selling childrens’ books of all time, even after a famous boy wizard hit the publishing scene in the 1990s.
By 2012, Green Eggs and Ham had sold around 15 million copies in North America alone, with Dr Seuss’ total book sales topping 500 million worldwide. That’s why, like Eric and me, generations of kids remember Green Eggs and Ham as a bedtime story – it made learning to read fun, exactly as the clever Dr Seuss intended.
The secret sauce is that Green Eggs and Ham only uses 50 words, making it super easy for newbies. And to boot, 49 of these 50 words only have one syllable, the outlier being ‘anywhere’.
Take a look, here’s a list of every word:
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.
There’s genius in the simplicity, which was brought about by a bet between Seuss and his publisher: could Seuss write a book using only 50 different words? The result is one of the best learning devices ever written.
And here’s where it gets really smart – Green Eggs and Ham is written in trochaic tetrameter, which has the same rhythm as many nursery rhymes (think ‘Peter, Peter, pumpkin-eater’). So it’s easy and memorable for kids. But this poetic meter is also found in more complex works, including Shakespeare and Wordsworth.
Time to get nostalgic: go grab Green Eggs and Ham from the library (or do a sneaky read in a bookstore) and take a five-minute trip back to your childhood.
Coming up: Eric has developed two recipes that are beautiful but easy to make. A fitting homage to the world’s easiest book to read!