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Monday, March 2, 2015

The Buried Treasure of Dr. Seuss

Librarian tattoos and Cat in the Hat cookies are just two ways I’ll be celebrating Read Across America Day today. Since 1998, the National Education Association has sponsored this countrywide celebration of reading for children and adults. March 2 is also the 111th birthday of Theodor Geisel, the word wizard better known as beloved author Dr. Seuss. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and three Academy Awards, Geisel wrote and illustrated dozens of children's books that are considered classics. Dr. Seuss and his creation, The Cat in the Hat, are the friendly, honorary faces of Read Across America Day.

To celebrate reading, kids will dress in red and white striped Cat in the Hat gear. Actors, athletes, principals, and even the politicians who slash library budgets will read favorites such as Hop on Pop and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to audiences high on Lorax lemonade. The day exists to celebrate reading and to motivate kids to read.

Despite not having children of his own (and the subject of rumors that he did not like or understand children), Seuss’ books nevertheless have captured the imaginations and tickled the funny bones of children for decades. Many parents relish sharing their favorite Seuss book with their children. On the other hand, many parents have confided to me that the Seuss books, with their tongue twisting wordplay and infernally catchy rhythms, are a source of nightmares (for them, not their children). Dr. Seuss is a 50/50 for many parents: you love him or you hate him.

If you are in the 50% that dislikes Dr. Seuss, you won’t be cheered to hear that a new Seuss manuscript has been discovered and is heading to bookstores this summer. Seuss’ widow, Audrey Geisel, discovered papers and sketches that had been set aside years ago by her husband in their La Jolla, CA, home. Random House’s staff and other Seuss experts worked to piece together the unfinished sketches and text into What Pet Should I Get?

The publisher has referred to this discovery as “finding buried treasure,” and if you are in the 50% that loves Dr. Seuss, your excitement is high.

Last year a collection of Seuss stories that had been printed in magazines close to 50 years ago appeared: Horton and the Kwuggebug and More Lost Stories. Since I haven’t had a child actually request Horton and the Kwuggebug nor The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories, another book of lost Seuss stories, I am hoping that What Pet Should I Get? will be more Cat in the Hat caliber and less Bippolo.

One wonders how the good Doctor would feel about the publication of these stories. Were they his novel in the drawer that authors can’t bring themselves to throw away, but know that they don’t want to see the light of day? Will the new book be cause for celebration? We’ll find out in July.

Are you a Seuss fan? If so, what’s your favorite Dr. Seuss story?


Jim Jackson said...

I was always amazed that parents would bring The Cat in the Hat and The Cat in the Hat Comes Back into their homes. They are subversive! That said, I tried to raise subversive kids, so I was happy to have them read those as well as Horton Hear a Who and Green Eggs and Ham.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

Dr. Seuss creeped me out. I found his characters strange and devoid of human emotion. Perhaps my mother's distress affected my opinion. We had one or two Dr. Seuss books, but we rarely read them. When I read to my children, there were other books that I found delightful, like The Berenstein Bears and the Little Critter books that suited my children better (and me!). I loved the George and Martha series so much, I bought Marshall's entire works at the time of his death. Sorry, Shari--Seuss wasn't for us.

KM Rockwood said...

We found Dr. Seuss delightful and they were in the stack of frequently requested bedtime stories. Since I worked midnight to eight, I usually slept after dinner, and did miss out on most of the bedtime routine, but I know everyone else in the family spent much of the evening reading together.

Warren Bull said...

Did you know that one of his books was banned? The Butter Battle Book was removed from the stacks in some libraries because some people that it parodied the nuclear arms race.

Kara Cerise said...

Two of my favorite Dr. Suess books are Horton Hears a Who and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. As a child I found the idea of a microscopic world called Whoville fascinating. It was my first foray into science fiction.

I like your tattoo, Shari.

Shari Randall said...

Jim - too funny! And before I forget - congratulations on Kindle Scout picking up Ant Farm! Many wishes for great sales and great reviews.

Shari Randall said...

EB, I know what you mean. A lot of Seuss leaves me cold, and I think in general, many of his books run on too long for most kids. But, hey, it works for those subversive households (see Jim).
Oh, my kids loved the Berenstains and Little Critter. George and Martha - that series is awesome. When I worked at Houghton Mifflin, the George and Martha books were a litmus test - people get them or they don't. I'm glad to find another fan of his stuff - I adore his stuff, especially the Fox books!

Shari Randall said...

KM, you were spared those tongue twisters! Seuss can be tough to read - especially over and over.

Shari Randall said...

Warren, I did not know that! He did work in themes of ecology and nature in the Horton books and consumerism in the Grinch. Lots of thesis papers have probably been done on his work.
Now I've got to go read The Butter Battle Book (proving the attraction of banned books)

Shari Randall said...

Kara, it's fun to see which Seuss books people favor (there's probably an internet test out there - what your favorite Seuss book says about your personality) I did love Whooville, and love the movie especially.
The tattoo will be coming off after today's celebration - there are some librarians out there who actually do have this tattoo (permanent) but I'm a weenie and only have a temporary one.

Gloria Alden said...

My children and I loved Dr. Seuss. It's hard to pick a favorite, but I read "To Think That I Saw On Mulberry Street" to my third graders and had them write poems titled "To Think That I Saw It on Bancroft Street" where our school was located. They were put on our classroom door decorated with a large picture of the cover of that book during Dr. Seuss week and we won first place that year. I firmly believe he had much to do with turning kids on to a love of books. As for the tongue twisters, I loved them and so did my kids especially if I messed up.

Kait said...

My favorite Dr. Seuss was A Fly Went By. Not one of his more popular numbers. Came out in the late 50s. After that - I pretty much thought his stuff was --- well---odd. But, he did get a lot of kids reading, and teachers loved them. I remember my first grade teacher reading them, in fact I can still see her showing the pictures with that swoop handed gesture teachers do. Can't even remember her name. But I can see her.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Gloria, Love that idea of bringing the story to Bancroft Street. Teachers are among Seuss' biggest fans - I think they see how kids connect with the language in those books.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Kait,
I can still see my Kindergarten teacher reading Dr. Seuss to us. Her name was Mrs. Fink and I absolutely idolized her!