How Dr. Seuss is still bringing rhymes and pictures to readers
'What Pet Should I Get?': New illustrations, books, and exhibits are still to come from Dr. Seuss, 24 years after his death.
The unfinished manuscript was found in a drawer, from the man who has shown so many young readers the magic that can be found in a book.
Next Tuesday, 24 years after his death, the rhymes and illustrations of Dr. Seuss will hit bookstores anew with the title “What Pet Should I Get?" The new book, as the title suggests, is about a brother and sister in search of a companion at the pet store.
In the meantime, another treasure from the land of Seuss has been released. A deck of alphabet flashcards, illustrated with the hallmark whimsy of the author, was found, alongside the unpublished manuscript about the kids at the pet store, in a box by Theodor Seuss Geisel’s widow, Audrey Geisel, and the author’s assistant, Claudia Prescott, when preparing the Geisel house in San Diego for renovation in 2013.
“We didn’t know that we had such a treasure,” said the assistant, Claudia Prescott, who started working for Theodor Geisel in 1972 and now helps Mrs. Geisel, 93, run Dr. Seuss Enterprises, in an interview with The New York Times.
The set of flashcards, drawn with colored pencil, were found alongside some rough sketches titled “The Horse Museum,” and a manila folder marked “Noble Failures,” with drawings of characters that Dr. Seuss had not found roles for in his stories.
The deck of cards also introduce an array of new Seussian characters, and have been donated to the University of California, San Diego, as part of the Dr. Seuss Collection, which was started by Mrs. Geisel after the author’s death in 1991. The collection includes illustrations, drafts, and unfinished works.
According to a profile of Seuss’s editor at Random House in The New York Times, the artist was a perfectionist, and never took work to his publisher until it was finished.
“The Pet Shop,” which has since been turned into "What Pet Should I Get?" presented a challenge to Random House, the publisher of Dr. Seuss' works, because it appeared unfinished. The box contained 16 black-and-white illustrations with typed text taped to the drawings. The pages were stained and yellowed, according to a statement, but the story was all there, and without a doubt, the work of Dr. Seuss.
He hadn’t shaded in the sketches with colored pencils, as he normally did when finishing an illustration. The squares of paper typically affixed to illustrations with a story's text had come loose, so it was unclear where the words should be placed in the recovered manuscript. Some images had five different possible rhyme schemes.
"We believe that he wrote and illustrated What Pet Should I Get? somewhere between 1958 and 1962 – as the brother and sister in the book are the same as those in his bestselling Beginner Book One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish which was published in 1960," says Cathy Goldsmith, Seuss's former Art Director, in a statement. "My connection to Ted remains as vital as it was when we worked closely together years ago – I know he is looking down, watching over the process, and I feel a tremendous responsibility to do everything just as he would have done himself."
In addition to completing the newest book, and the growing collection at the University of California, San Diego, a museum devoted to the author and illustrator is set to open in his hometown of Springfield, Mass., in June of 2016.
“The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss” will have two missions, said Kay Simpson, vice president for the Springfield Museums, a group of five museums in the city, to The Boston Globe. “It’s literacy-based and telling stories of Dr. Seuss in Springfield,” said Simpson.
“We want to introduce people to him,” she said, but more than that, “Ted was all about getting kids excited for reading.”
More reading is to be done, too. One book, two books by Dr. Seuss, previously unpublished, will be released at a later date.