Classic Read Aloud Stories: The Cat in the Hat

One of Dr. Seuss' most widely read stories, 'The Cat in the Hat' is a classic picture book that was first published in 1957. Designed as a fun and entertaining book for early readers, 'The Cat in the Hat' has been a hugely popular read aloud story for more than half a century. Its success inspired return appearances by the Cat in books, television and film.

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Dr. Seuss The Cat in the Hat

About the Story

The Cat in the Hat is narrated by an unnamed little boy who, along with his sister Sally, is dreading a boring, rainy day stuck inside. The titular Cat in the Hat bursts through the door and declares that he can provide them with games and tricks that will keep the pair entertained. As the Cat is about to begin, the children's fish warns them that the Cat is trouble and he shouldn't be there while their mother is out.

Ignoring the fish, the Cat begins to play, balancing a variety of objects on his hands, feet and head, such as books, a cake, a bottle of milk and the fishbowl, with the alarmed fish inside. Next, the Cat produces a box with two creatures named Thing One and Thing Two. While the fish continues to protest, Thing One and Thing Two fly kites through the house, knocking over everything in their path.

With the house in disarray, the fish spots the mother returning home. Sally and her brother frantically capture Thing One and Thing Two and send the Cat away. He returns, however, to help them clean up the mess, leaving the children and a tidy house just as the mother arrives.

A Story for Early Readers

In 1954, Life magazine published an article by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer John Hershey on the weak literacy skills of children. Hershey theorized that reading among children suffered due to school primers of the day being boring. He noted that these books featured pictures of 'antiseptic' children who are 'abnormally courteous' and 'unnaturally clean.' In Hershey's opinion, these books didn't reflect the reality children knew. Hershey concluded his article by questioning why school primers couldn't have the rich and imaginative pictures of inventive illustrators such as Theodor Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss.

William Ellsworth Spaulding, who was the director of the education division at Houghton Mifflin and a friend of Geisel, challenged the author to write a captivating primer. Spaulding provided a list of 348 words first graders should know, insisting the book should not exceed 225 words. Geisel responded with The Cat in the Hat, which uses 223 words from Spaulding's list and 13 more, for 236 distinct words.

Ideal for early readers, The Cat in the Hat has just one three-syllable word, 14 two-syllable words and 221 monosyllabic words. It's also written using anapestic tetrameter, or lines of four feet, with each containing two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed syllable. This poetic form gives the story a bouncing rhythm.

More Cat in the Hat

The Cat in the Hat proved popular enough to warrant return appearances in subsequent Dr. Seuss stories. In 1958, Seuss published The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. The Cat also appears in The Cat's Quizzer, I Can Read with My Eyes Shut! and The Cat in the Hat Song Book. In 1971, an animated version of the original story debuted on television, followed by a live-action feature film in 2003.

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