Bartholomew and the Oobleck
|1949 (renewed 1976)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Preceded by||The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins|
Bartholomew and the Oobleck is a 1949 book by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel). It follows the adventures of a young boy named Bartholomew, who must rescue his kingdom from a sticky substance called "oobleck". The book is a sequel of sorts to The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Unlike most of Geisel's books, which are written in anapestic tetrameter, Bartholomew and the Oobleck, like its predecessor, is a prose work.
Geisel said he drew inspiration for the book from a conversation he overheard while stationed in Belgium during World War II. During a rainstorm, one of his fellow soldiers remarked, "Rain, always rain. Why can't we have something different for a change?"
A version recorded by the actor Marvin Miller varies slightly from the book. The king encounters the crisis personally in his royal bathtub, when the oobleck comes out of the water faucet.
The book opens with an explanation about how people in the Kingdom of Didd still talk about "The year the King got angry with the sky," and how Bartholomew Cubbins, King Derwin's page boy, saved the Kingdom. Throughout the year, Bartholomew sees the king getting angry at rain in spring, sun in summer, fog in autumn, and snow in winter. The king explains he's angry because he wants something new to come down from the sky, but when Bartholomew points out that "even kings can't rule the sky," the king vows to prove Bartholomew wrong.
One spring night, as he's getting ready for bed, the king gets the idea that ruling the sky is the task of his Royal Magicians so he orders Bartholomew to summon them. After expressing his wish to the magicians, they announce they can make something called Oobleck which won't look like the regular weather that the king doesn't want. The magicians soon return to their secret cave on Mount Neeka Tave to make the Oobleck.
After watching the cave all night, Bartholomew sees the first sign that the Oobleck has been made and that it is falling the very next morning. When the king wakes up and sees the Oobleck, Bartholomew tries to caution him on how big the falling Oobleck is getting, but the king orders Bartholomew to tell the Royal Bell Ringer that today will be a holiday.
Bartholomew does as he's told, but when the bell ringer tries to ring the bell, it doesn't ring because Oobleck has gotten into it. When Bartholomew and the bell ringer see a mother bird trapped in her nest by the Oobleck, as well as the cow, who is also stuck in the Oobleck, they see that it could be dangerous, so Bartholomew makes the decision to warn the kingdom.
First, Bartholomew warns the Royal Trumpeter about the Oobleck, but when the trumpeter tries to sound the alarm, Oobleck gets into the trumpet and the trumpeter gets his hand stuck trying to remove the Oobleck. When Bartholomew tries to tell the Captain of the Guard to warn the kingdom, the captain instead, thinking the Oobleck to be pretty, tries to prove to Bartholomew that he's not afraid by scooping some Oobleck up with his sword and eating it, only to get his mouth stuck and breathe out green bubbles. Bartholomew tries to go to the Royal Stables for a horse to warn the kingdom on his own, but even the stables are covered in Oobleck.
As Bartholomew goes back inside, the falling blobs of Oobleck, now as big as buckets filled with broccoli, start to break into the palace, creating even more mess inside than outside. Bartholomew runs around warning everybody to stay undercover, but the palace servants and guards are soon stuck in the Oobleck.
In the throne room, the king, now covered in Oobleck, orders Bartholomew to summon the magicians to stop the storm, but when Bartholomew brings up the bad news that even the cave is covered in Oobleck, the king gets the idea to use the magicians' magic words ("Shuffle Duffle Muzzle Muff") to stop the Oobleck. Bartholomew finally gets the courage to tell the king off for making such a foolish wish and tells him to use simple words, like "I'm sorry," instead of magic words. At first, the king insists that he never says sorry, but only after Bartholomew states that he's no sort of king if he's covered in Oobleck does the king finally admit his mistake and say "I'm sorry."
Straight after the king says those simple words, the Oobleck Storm breaks up and the sun melts away all the Oobleck, freeing everybody in the process. At this point, the narrator states that maybe those simple words the king said were the magic words to stop the storm. After the Oobleck is gone, Bartholomew takes the king to the bell tower and the king rings the bell proclaiming the day a holiday, dedicated not to Oobleck, but to rain, sun, fog, and snow, the four things that have, and always should, come down from the sky.
- Thomas Fensch. The Man Who Was Dr. Seuss. New Century Books, 2001. 95.
- The Newbery and Caldecott Awards: A Guide to the Medal and Honor Books. Association for Library Service to Children. 2006. p. 130.
- Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938-Present American Library Association