The Sneetches and Other Stories
How It All Goes Down
Theodore Geisel wrote and illustrated his own books. Who does he think he is, Dr. Seuss? Oh, yeah.
For The Sneetches and Other Stories, Seuss chose a simple style—simple for Seuss at least. The landscapes aren't very elaborate at all. In "The Sneetches," the beach is basically represented by the white on the page, and the sky is—wait for it—blue. Even the forest in "What Was I Scared Of?" is pretty bare. You can check out our section on "Setting" for more deep thoughts on the landscapes, but let's think a bit about the characters.
The characters stand out, no matter the background:
- When the background is softer, Seuss makes the characters pop with color. Your eye is drawn immediately to the bright colors and dark outlining of Sylvester McMonkey McBean and his crazy machines.
- In "The Zax," on the other hand, the prairie is colored a golden yellow and the cars are assorted reds and blues. So what does Dr. Seuss do? He makes the Zax black-and-white to give them the same attention that the colorful Sneetches and Daves have.
Very tricky, Dr. Seuss.
Big Drawings; Wordy Details
You know how some picture books have the words on one page and the pictures on another? Like the pictures are an afterthought; like any picture could go there and it'd be the same story.
Well, Seuss is basically saying that won't fly with his stuff. You get all or nothing. The pictures take up the entirety of each page, so the words live in the same space as the picture. In this way, the words feel like a part of the world Seuss is creating rather than separate from it. Without one, the either would seem just barren.
It'll be no surprise to anyone that Seuss went with cartoony style drawings. We can't imagine what a realistic picture book with the word "Sneetches" in the title would look like. And we honestly don't want to. From the exaggerated pot-bellies on the Sneetches to the almost Looney Tunes poses of the narrator in "What Was I Scared Of?" every drawing in this book exists in that delightful realm of cartoony wonder.
Why? It's all about exaggeration. Seuss's stories use exaggeration to make their various lessons accessible and fun—and the illustrations should be no different. The emphasis on the fantasy elements disarms you, and you feel like you're reading a story about Sneetches when you're really reading about prejudice and capitalism. The cartoony style allows Dr. Seuss to hide himself in plain sight.
Well played, sir, well played indeed.
Ah! Do we even have to consider such a notion? Okay, fine.
How would these stories be different without illustrations? Hmmm. For starters, they'd be a whole lot longer. When Dr. Seuss writes about Sneetches with illustrations, we're going to assume that the crazy creature in the picture is a Sneetch. End of discussion. But without the pictures, we're going to need some more details on what exactly a Sneetch is. In a children's story, that's going to mire the pacing just a wee bit.
Plus, without any pictures, we'd miss the grabby grabbiness of the whole thing. Sure, you can tell us McBean laughed and took all the Sneetches' money. But until you read those words in tandem with McBean's smug face and the mountains of cash blowing about him… well, you can't possibly know just how much you're supposed to dislike the man until that moment.