If I Ran the Zoo

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If I Ran the Zoo
If i ran the zoo1.jpg
AuthorDr. Seuss
Original titleIf I Got to the Zoo
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's literature
PublisherRedbook (magazine)
Random House (book)
Publication date
1950 (renewed 1977)
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
Preceded byBartholomew and the Oobleck 
Followed byScrambled Eggs Super! 

If I Ran the Zoo is a children's book written by Dr. Seuss in 1950.

The book is written in anapestic tetrameter, Seuss's usual verse type, and illustrated in Seuss's pen-and-ink style.


When young Gerald McGrew visits the zoo, he discovers that the exotic animals are "not good enough." He says that if he ran the zoo, he would set all of the current animals free and find new, more bizarre and exotic ones. Throughout the book he lists these creatures, starting with a lion with ten feet and escalating to more imaginative (and imaginary) creatures, such as the Fizza-ma-Wizza-ma-Dill, "the world's biggest bird from the island of Gwark, who eats only pine trees, and spits out the bark."

The illustrations also grow wilder as McGrew imagines going to increasingly remote and exotic habitats, capturing each fanciful creature, and bringing them all back to a zoo now filled with his new wild animals. He also imagines the praise he receives from others, who are amazed at his "new Zoo, McGrew Zoo".


Some of the animals featured in If I Ran the Zoo have been featured in a segment of The Hoober-Bloob Highway, a 1975 CBS TV special. In this segment, Hoober-Bloob babies don't have to be human if they don't choose to be, so Mr. Hoober-Bloob shows them a variety of different animals; including ones from If I Ran The Zoo (and On Beyond Zebra!). Such animals include: Obsks, a flock of Wild Bippo-No-Bungus, a Tizzle-Topped Tufted Mazurka, a Big-Bug-Who-Is-Very-Surprising, Chuggs, a Deer with Horns-That-Are-Just-A-Bit-Queer, a New Sort-Of-A-Hen, an Elephant-Cat, and an Iota.


If I Ran the Zoo is often credited[1][2] with the first printed modern English appearance of the word "nerd," although the word is not used in its modern context. It is simply the name of an otherwise un-characterized imaginary creature, appearing in the sentence "And then, just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo/And Bring Back an It-Kutch, a Preep, and a Proo,/A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too!"

Theme park attraction[edit]

If I Ran the Zoo
Islands of Adventure
AreaSeuss Landing
Soft opening dateMarch, 1999
Opening dateMay 28, 1999
General statistics
Attraction typePlay Area
ThemeIf I Ran the Zoo

Dr. Seuss's Zoo book is also the main theme for one of the children's play areas at Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure. The small play area is located inside the area of the park known as Seuss Landing.


If I Ran the Zoo has been criticized for its use of racial stereotypes and caricatures. In a 1988 biography of Dr. Seuss, Ruth K. MacDonald notes the perceived presence of "occasional stereotypes of native peoples—potbellied, thick-lipped blacks from Africa, squinty-eyed Orientals," that "may offend some modern readers."[3] A 2019 study published in the journal Research on Diversity in Youth Literature noted the perceived presence of dehumanizing stereotypes of East Asian, Sub-Saharan African and Middle Eastern characters.[4] The Canadian Book and Periodical Council's Freedom to Read project listed the book as having been challenged in 2015 for "insensitivity and ethnic stereotyping."[5]

On March 2, 2021, Dr. Seuss Enterprises withdrew If I Ran the Zoo and five other books from publication due to controversy surrounding racist images within those books.[6][7] Dr. Seuss Enterprises did not specify which illustrations were offensive,[8] but since the book is about animals being collected from all over the world, several nations are depicted in stereotypical ways, for example Nepalese, Chinese, African Pygmys, Persian, Turkish, and Cossack characters. After the books were removed, nine of the top ten, including the top four, books on Amazon's charts in the United States were Dr. Seuss books, though none of the removed books were.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ David Brooks (2008-05-23). "The Alpha Geeks". New York Times.
  2. ^ Eryn Loeb (2008-05-20). "The beauty of the geek". Salon.com.
  3. ^ MacDonald, Ruth K. (1988). Dr. Seuss. Boston: Twayne Publishers. p. 71. ISBN 0-8057-7524-2. OCLC 18014535.
  4. ^ Ishizuka, Katie; Stephens*, Ramón (2019-02-13). "The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss's Children's Books". Research on Diversity in Youth Literature. 1 (2).
  5. ^ "If I Ran the Zoo". www.freedomtoread.ca. Retrieved 2019-12-16.
  6. ^ Pratt, Mark (March 2, 2021). "Six Dr. Seuss books won't be published for racist images". CTV News. Retrieved March 2, 2021.
  7. ^ Gross, Jenny (March 2, 2021), "6 Dr. Seuss Books Will No Longer Be Published Over Offensive Images", New York Times, retrieved March 2, 2021
  8. ^ Hopper, Tristan (March 3, 2021). "Here are the 'wrong' illustrations that got six Dr. Seuss books cancelled". National Post. Retrieved March 4, 2021.
  9. ^ Taylor, Brooke (March 4, 2021). "Dr. Seuss tops Amazon charts after 6 titles pulled over racist imagery". CTV News. Retrieved March 4, 2021.