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A new Dr Seuss! And the Seuss books that have meant the most to us.

July 25, 2015

what-pet-should-i-get-In case you missed it, in 2015 a never-before-published Dr Seuss book, What Pet Should I Get? hit the shelves.

It got us talking about what it would take to get a ‘discovered’ manuscript ready for the bookshelves. We’ve been reminiscing about Seuss’ legacy, and some of our all-time favourite Seuss books. And we’ve spoken to a high school teacher about why he gives copies of Dr Seuss to some of his students.

This is not the only Dr Seuss book to be published since author Theodor Seuss Geisel’s death in 1991. A total of 16 books have been released posthumously. But the idea that there are still manuscripts out there is exciting!

What Pet Should I Get? was discovered by Audrey Geisel, Theodore’s widow, while cleaning out her husband’s office. It was in a box filled with sketches and pages of text. Apparently it wasn’t uncommon for Seuss to work on several manuscripts at once, and it’s thought that he worked on this one sometime between 1958-62 and then set it aside in favour of another project.

The book was actually very close to complete: according to an interview in Publishers Weekly, the publishers only needed to add a couple of lines of transition text. The illustrations hadn’t been coloured, but it has the same characters as One Fish, Two Fish… (this time, the brother and sister visit a pet shop and have to make up their minds about just the one pet to take home), so the publishers took their cues from that earlier book for the colours, along with notes Seuss had written on some spreads.

Dr Suess’ fizzing humour and wonderful word play have been a part of so many children’s lives, helping to build literacy and make reading fun for generations. His books have inspired songs and menu items!

There’s a Dr Seuss book for kids of just about every age. For pre-readers, his simple texts with just a few words and lots of rhyme and rhythm are great for reading aloud and helping kids begin to recognise words and letters. Liz Bray, Better Reading’s Children’s Specialist, remembers how much she and her sister enjoyed one of these, Hop on Pop: ‘the rhyme is very satisfying (particularly the ‘op’ sounds) and the cheeky, irreverent illustration of characters actually ‘hopping’ on their ‘Pop’ had huge appeal!

‘I read a great little tidbit on Mental Floss recently, about Seuss’ publisher, Bennett Cerf, betting him $50 (which must have been a lot of money, in those days!) that he couldn’t write a book using only 50 words. The Cat in the Hat had 225 words in it, and apparently Seuss had really struggled with that.

‘Seuss won the bet with Hop on Pop!’

For slightly older kids, Seuss created a number of simple stories for reading alone.

green-eggs-and-hamLiz Durnan, our Website Editor, and Liz Bray, Children’s Specialist, both remember Green Eggs and Ham with affectionLiz D says ‘even the title conjures up such a vivid image’. And Liz B: ‘Even now we’re adults, my family still chant some of the lines from this book: there’s something really catchy and addictive about the rhyme in it. The message about being convinced you don’t like something, but trying it and changing your mind, is a good one, too.’

Liz Bray also remembers Ten Apples up on Top, which was designed to help kids learn to count: ‘Even long after I knew how to count, I enjoyed returning to the illustrations in it – the way Seuss conveyed the one-up-manship between the characters as they showed off how they could add yet another apple to the stack on their heads, and the mad chase at the end where they all try to keep balancing the apples. I particularly loved the image of the tiger climbing through the window, with seven apples on his head.’

Older, more fluent readers, can enjoy Seuss’ more complex stories, many of which offer wonderful little observations and lessons about life along with humour, crazy animals and zany pictures. Better Reading Marketing Assistant Jess Horton names three of these as favourites: The Sneetches, The Lorax and Oh! The Places You’ll Go!

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”  – The Lorax

Some of these books also make popular gifts for important ‘life occasions’. We spoke to a high school geography teacher, Brad Thompson, who gives copies of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! to some of his students when they finish Year 12. He told us:

oh the places‘I think it’s a real rite-of-passage book, about setting off in the world and taking responsibility for yourself (“You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”)

‘As a geography teacher, I love to encourage interest in physical places and journeys, but the internal journey is just as important and this book is about that internal voyage of discovery. It tells the students in a quirky and gentle way that they will all come across wonderful things in life, but also face difficulties and challenges along the way.

‘Seuss depicts many of the emotions of these difficult times: the ‘slump’, the feeling of being left behind or stranded for a time, how overwhelmed we can be by decisions. But ultimately he shows us a positive, optimistic perspective of life.

‘I give the book to students I’ve built a rapport with, who I know will take meaning from it, to inspire them, remind them that “Life’s a Great Balancing Act”, and tell them I really believe they’ll move mountains “98 and three quarters per cent guaranteed”!’

Which Dr Seuss books would you add to our list? Please comment below, and if you like this post consider sharing it using the social buttons.

Story posted by the Better Reading Team.

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