The Story behind The Cat in the Hat
Theodor Geisel, writing as Dr. Seuss, created The Cat in the Hat in response to the May 24, 1954 LIFE magazine article by John Hersey, titled “Why Do Students Bog Down on First R? A Local Committee Sheds Light on a National Problem: Reading.”
After detailing many issues contributing to the dilemma connected with student reading levels, Hersey asked toward the end of the article: “Why should school primers not have pictures that widen rather than narrow the associative richness the children give to the words they illustrate — drawings like those of the wonderfully imaginative geniuses among children’s illustrators, Tenniel, Howard Pyle, “Dr. Seuss”, Walt Disney?”
Dr. Seuss responded to this “challenge,” and began work. His publisher supplied him with a list of 400 words, ones that the publisher thought children would be learning in school. His publisher told him to cut the list in half and to try and write an interesting enough book for children. Nine months later Dr. Seuss created The Cat In The Hat, which used 223 words from the list he was given.
In the book, the Cat brings a cheerful, exotic and exuberant form of chaos to a household of two young children one rainy day while their mother is out. Bringing with him two creatures appropriately named Thing One and Thing Two, the Cat performs all sorts of wacky tricks to amuse the children, with mixed results. The Cat’s antics are vainly opposed by the family pet, who is a sentient and articulate goldfish. The children (Sally and her older brother, who serves as the narrator) ultimately prove exemplary latchkey children, capturing the Things and bringing the Cat under control. To make up for the chaos he has caused, he cleans up the house on his way out, disappearing seconds before the mother arrives.
The story is 1626 words in length and uses a vocabulary of only 223 distinct words, of which 54 occur exactly once and 33 twice. Only a single word – another – has three syllables, while 14 have two and the remaining words are monosyllabic. The longest words are something and playthings.
Classroom Activities for The Cat in the Hat
- Talk about rainy day activities and create a rainy day bulletin board by having the children list their favorite thing to do on a rainy day. Have them place their ideas on a cut-out of a raindrop. Place the raindrops on the board around a picture of a house and a cat in a hat. Title the board “Fun in the Rain”.
- Let students answer the question “Have you ever been left at home alone? Why or why not?”
- Discuss times when it took lots of courage for you to tell something to your parents.
- What would you do if a stranger came to your home and you were all alone?
- Have students find all the “sight” words in the story and discuss them.
- Have students summarize the story in poetic form
- Let students write about rainy days
- Get students to write about what they like to do when they can’t go outside to play.
Drawing & Crafting:
- Let students draw parts of the stories (scenes, cats, hats, etc.)
- Have students create a new version of the story. Place the following words on the board and have the students use them in their new story: shine, play, take, mother, cut, two, there, day, cold, something, want, head, wall, should, thing, nothing, saw, our, house, said, white, red, cat , why, when, could, should, alone, have, these, was, good, what, like, know, little, looked, your, this, you, I, my, mine. — Practice these words often.
- Make one pattern of a hat and one of a cat.
- Make many copies of each.
- On the cat cut-outs you may wish to write the words – play, cat, man, gown, two, sunny, said, fear, ball, say, pot, you, hall, hook, cake, mat, go, fox, now, bump, yes, so, fish , sit, you, and hot.
- On the hat cut-outs you may wish to write – day, do, all, bit, jump, hat, rake, how, dish, away, funny, that, fan, head, not, know, box, look, down, hear, to , mess, no, wall.
- Now you need to laminate all of the cards and place them in an envelope.
- You now have a rhyming center!
Additional Resources on the Web
The official Dr. Seuss site by the publisher Random House with information about the author, videos, games, and teacher’s resources.
- The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot about That
A site by PBS, dedicated to the Cat in the Hat, hosting games, videos, and printable material.
Buy The Cat in the Hat online at Amazon.com