12 Underrated Dr. Seuss Books You Need to Read
Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, may well be the most beloved children’s author of all time. Though the majority of his most popular books were written in the 1950s and 60s, they continue to delight children today, and remain favorites of parents and teachers. In fact, one in four children in the United States receives a Dr. Seuss book as their very first book.
If you have children, or for that matter, were a child yourself in the last 60 or so years, then you are probably at least somewhat familiar with Dr. Seuss’s most beloved characters – Horton the elephant, the Cat in the Hat, Sam-I-Am (and his green eggs and ham), the Grinch, and the Lorax, among them.
But have you met Bartholomew Cubbins, Marvin K. Mooney, and Yertle the Turtle? Do you know what a Sneetch is? If not, this list is for you!
We dug through Dr. Seuss’s long bibliography, and asked moms and dads, teachers, kids, and former kids to find the very best lesser known Dr. Seuss books. So add these 12 books to your reading list – they might not have big budget film adaptations or licensed merchandise, but these little-known classics are sure to become new favorites of kids and parents alike!
Dr. Seuss’s first book, Mulberry Street was rejected 27 times before it was finally published in 1937. The story follows a young boy who, while walking down Mulberry St. (a street in Seuss’s hometown of Springfield, MA) dreams up an elaborate fantasy about the sights and sounds he encounters.
A young boy visits the zoo but isn’t impressed by the animals he sees there. He proceeds to list an increasingly fanciful list of imaginary creatures he would include in his own zoo. Fun fact: The book, published in 1950, is often cited as the first modern printed appearance of the word “nerd.”
While Dr. Seuss said that he never began a story with the intention of teaching children a lesson, he did believe that stories inherently have morals, and many of his books satirize social and political issues. The title story of this book, “The Sneetches” is one of these. With his story about a group of yellow creatures, some of whom have stars on their bellies and some without, Seuss sends a strong message about racial tolerance and equality. The accompanying stories in this collection, especially “What Was I Scared Of” and “Too Many Daves” are delightful as well.
This was Dr. Seuss’s second book, originally published in 1938. Unlike most of his books, which rhyme and are written in metered verse, this is one of just a few written in prose. The tale tells of a young boy named Bartholomew who lives in the kingdom of Didd. One day, he removes his hat to the king, only to find another in its place. And another, and another, and another….
Published in 1965, this book follows Mr. Fox and Mr. Knox, two characters who speak mostly in a series of increasingly complex rhyming tongue twisters. While they’re fun to read aloud, tongue twisters, like those found in this story, have a practical application too – the complex arrangement of sounds help to improve language development. Tongue twisters are frequently used by speech therapists and English language teachers for exactly this reason.
This book falls squarely in the category of nonsense literature. In it, a young narrator, unimpressed by our 26-letter alphabet, invents his own additional letters, and a series of imaginary creatures whose names begin with each.
Hunt for the zelf on the shelf, the zamp in the lamp, and the yeps on the steps! This fun book is packed with Seuss’s trademark rhymes and fanciful creatures.
A sequel to The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, the book revisits the kingdom of Didd, where Bartholomew must figure out a way to stop Oobleck, a gooey green substance that begins falling from the sky. After you read the book, try this fun science experiment and make your own Oobleck. For a more in-depth look at the science that makes Oobleck both liquid and solid at the same time, check out Science Café’s explanation.
We’re never explicitly told where Marvin K. Mooney is being asked to go, but for any parent who’s dealt with a reluctant child at bedtime, it’s an easy story to relate to! Kids will love the imaginative scenarios our narrator suggests for Marvin’s leaving, including mailing himself, and shooting himself from a cannon.
With a subtitle that reads “the simplest Seuss for youngest use” this may well be the best Seuss book for beginning readers to read independently.Through colorful illustrations and a series of simple poems, the book introduces basic phonics concepts in a fun and engaging way.
Though this book includes two other stories, the star of the show here is our title character, Yertle. Though he was never one to openly moralize, Seuss himself has stated that Yertle, the despotic king of the pond, is based on Adolf Hitler, and the book is widely regarded as a reaction against World War II and authoritarianism.
A tiny bug yawns, and that yawn spreads, as creatures in every land drift off to sleep. Seuss intended this to be a bedtime book – the warning on the inside cover even reads “this book is to be read in bed.” After all, yawning is contagious.
Tell us in the comments: What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book?
Ashley MacQuarrie began writing professionally more than ten years ago and has covered education, technology, current events, pop culture, and other topics. A former homeschooler, she studied English and Film & New Media, graduating with a bachelor's degree from San Diego State University. Ashley has classroom experience working with children who have autism and other special needs. She has also tutored students from kindergarten through college and taught English to teens and adults at a language school in London.
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