Almost 25 years after the death of the great Dr. Seuss, a new book hits the market.
“We want a pet. / We want a pet. / What kind of pet / should we get?” So begins the narrator and his sister’s visit to a pet store, where they find themselves torn among a bevy of cute, furry creatures including cats, dogs, rabbits, and fish, as well as some “new things.” As presented in the lengthy publisher’s note that follows the story, this newly unearthed picture book likely dates to the late 1950s or early ’60s and has been reconstructed from finished art and multiple iterations of draft revisions. The result is a far more satisfying experience than such other posthumous Seuss publications as Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories (2014) and The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories (2011), which paired more or less finished stories with a few pieces of art. This new-old book presents a complete storyline with a pleasing balance of text and art featuring, on average, one quatrain per page. Unfortunately, it still has a fairly unfinished feel. It’s hard to imagine that the notoriously finicky—admirably so—author would have been entirely happy with the occasionally lackluster and stumbling verse. Moreover, while the illustrations demonstrate an intensifying looniness, progressing from cats and dogs to Seuss’ trademark, unidentifiable rubber-limbed, mop-topped creatures, the text does not keep pace. The “yent” or the “fast kind of thing / who would fly round my head / in a ring on a string” the brother considers feel like first steps toward zaniness rather than a finished artistic vision. The concluding note likewise suffers from a lack of unity, offering an earnest exhortation to eschew pet shops for shelter adoption, a survey of the dogs in Theodor Geisel’s life, and the process art director Cathy Goldsmith followed in turning the newfound manuscript into a book.
Of more lasting interest to scholars than children, this genial pet-shop visit provides a tantalizing glimpse into a master’s artistic process. (Picture book. 3 & up)