What animal lovers will hate about the new Dr. Seuss book

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Dr. Seuss book explores what came before ‘One Fish Two Fish’.

Seuss’ new book, “What Pet Should I Get?”, features the same siblings seen in his 1960 classic “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.” The book went on sale Tuesday, two weeks after the release of Harper Lee’s long-awaited second novel, “Go Set a Watchman.” But unlike some fans of Lee’s 1960 book, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” those who love Dr.

Seuss are unlikely to be disappointed, says Donald Pease, author of two books about Seuss and an English professor at the author’s alma mater, Dartmouth College. “It’s a classic Dr. A couple of years ago, the now 93-year-old Geisel, her longtime assistant and Cathy Goldsmith, the designer who worked on the last six Dr Seuss books, rediscovered them.

Fish? — they start to imagine more fanciful creatures: the aforementioned Yent, or a “thing on a string.” All the while, they face the constraints of what their parents would allow. Out of a collection of black-and-white drawings and the faded, typed rhymes taped to the pictures, the team has recreated an almost spookily precise addition to the Seuss canon. The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham revolutionized children’s publishing in the late 1950s and seduced generations of children with hypnotic rhymes and weird, wild creatures.

I began thinking that words and pictures, married, might possibly produce a progeny more interesting than either parent,” he told the Dartmouth alumni magazine in 1975. “It took me almost a quarter of a century to find the proper way to get my words and pictures married. On the cover of the new book, thick black outlines are flooded with a faded palette of blues and yellows, punctuated with spots of red, in floppy bows looped onto a birdcage and around the long neck of a cat. Four animals, all beseeching smiles and adoring eyes, cluster around a little boy while he gazes upwards at the question in the title, eyes wide and faintly worried. When Seuss was a senior, he and his friends were caught drinking alcohol in his room during Prohibition. (“We had a pint of gin for 10 people, so that proves nobody was really drinking,” he recalled.) Part of his punishment included being booted off the staff of the campus humor magazine, but he got around the sanction by signing his cartoons with his mother’s maiden name and his own middle name: Seuss.

Unlike Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman,” in which the heroic Atticus Finch disparages blacks and condemns the Supreme Court’s decision to outlaw segregation in public school, the new Seuss book joins other Seuss classics such as “The Sneetches and Other Stories” and “Green Eggs and Ham” in affirming equality, Pease said. The book has been described as a dramatisation of an important lesson that all children must learn: how to “make up the mind that is up in my head”.

But this process is surprisingly stressful – the most striking spread in the book shows only the children’s huge faces, staring at each other in desperation. The book takes place in a recognisable world that only really turns Seussian toward the end, when the children consider the merits of a tall creature, with gangly limbs, that can curl up under a desk, and wonder whether Dad would spring for a tent to house a huge, snoozing Yent. Why, twice over, are they confronted with a parade of animals marching across a dark and forbidding background waving banners that read “MAKE UP YOUR MIND”?

It also tackles the other obvious real-world problem of the book: that “shopping” for a new pet is thoroughly outmoded, and we no longer like to treat animals as interchangeable commodities. The publishers earnestly encourage children to find their pets at a shelter and to remember that “committing to caring for a pet as a cherished, not captive, companion, is a big decision”. In 1957, Geisel wrote an essay for the New York Times Book Review railing against dull, tame children’s books, which he said might as well all be called “Bunny, Bunny, Bunny”.

No wonder the kids of the television era said: “Nuts to books!” Dr Seuss knew it was no easy feat to awaken their minds and imaginations, and it was a task he took immensely seriously. There are glimmers of that spirit in the artwork here, and no doubt it’ll make parents nostalgic, but as a story, it might have been better off back in the box.

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