Bartholomew and the Oobleck
|1949 (renewed 1976)|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Preceded by||Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose|
|Followed by||If I Ran the Zoo|
Bartholomew and the Oobleck is a 1949 book by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel). It follows the adventures of a young boy named Bartholomew Cubbins, who must rescue his kingdom from a sticky green 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 is a prose work, like its predecessor.
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?"
The book opens with an explanation of 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 because he wants something new to come down from the sky. The king gets the idea that he can rule the sky, and he orders Bartholomew to summon the Royal Magicians from their "musty hole beneath the dungeon." When the king expresses his wish, the magicians announce that they can make oobleck, which will not look anything at all like the regular weather. That evening, the magicians make that substance at their mystic mountain Neeka-tave, and release it into the air.
Next morning, Bartholomew sees droplets of a strange green substance falling from the sky: the oobleck has arrived. When the King sees it, he is overjoyed. He declares the day a holiday and orders Bartholomew to tell the Royal Bell Ringer to announce the occasion. The bell ringer tries to oblige, but the bell will not ring; the oobleck is falling harder and turns out to be both gelatinous and adhesive, and it has gummed up the bell. When Bartholomew sees a mother bird trapped in her nest by the oobleck, and a cow trapped in the oobleck, he makes the decision to warn the kingdom.
The Royal Trumpeter tries to sound the alarm, but oobleck gets into the trumpet and the trumpeter gets his hand stuck trying to remove it. Bartholomew tells the Captain of the Guard to warn the kingdom, but the captain, determined to prove that he's not afraid of the oobleck, scoops some up with his sword and eats it, only to get his mouth stuck and breathe out green bubbles. Bartholomew decides to warn the kingdom himself and rushes to the Royal Stables for a horse, but, perhaps predictably, all the horses have been covered and immobilized by oobleck.
In the throne room, the king, now swathed in oobleck, orders Bartholomew to summon the magicians to stop the storm, but Bartholomew delivers the bad news that "their cave on Mountain Neeka-tave is buried deep in oobleck." The king gets the idea to use the magicians' magic words ("Shuffle Duffle Muzzle Muff...") to stop the oobleck, but he cannot remember the whole incantation, and, in any case, he is not a magician.
Bartholomew finally gets the courage to reprimand the king for making such a foolish wish, and he tells him to use simple words, like "I'm sorry," instead of magic words.
Immediately after the king says those simple words, the oobleck storm abates and the sun melts away all the green slime, freeing everybody. After the oobleck is gone, Bartholomew takes the king to the bell tower. 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 always, and should always, come down from the sky.
A version recorded by the actor Marvin Miller varies slightly from the book: the king first encounters the oobleck in his royal bathtub, when it comes out of the water faucet, causing him to become stuck. Also, Bartholomew encounters Gussie, the royal cook, who is in panic with what he sees.
- 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
- Oobleck: The Dr. Seuss Science Experiment
- Outrageous Ooze