A New Book from Dr. Seuss! He'd Be 'Happy and Proud' to See It in Print, Says His Former Art Director
Dr. Seuss' new book is due out on July 28
Dr. Seuss is famous for creating The Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish and countless other kids’ classics, but it turns out he didn’t share all the animals in his whimsical world before he died in 1991.
A previously unpublished Dr. Seuss book called What Pet Should I Get? is set to hit shelves on July 28, more than 20 years after the author’s death.
What Pet tells the story of a brother and sister duo – virtually identical to the pair in 1960’s One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish – who visit the pet store in search of a new furry or finned friend and quickly become overwhelmed by the options.
The long-lost manuscript for the book was discovered in October 2013 by the author’s widow, Audrey Geisel, among a box of abandoned doodles – or as Dr. Seuss preferred to call them, “Noble Failures.”
The beloved children’s book writer and illustrator, whose real name is Theodor Seuss Geisel, had created the 16 black-and-white drawings and accompanying text decades earlier, labeling the project The Pet Shop.
Although he ultimately abandoned the manuscript, it was likely not for lack of love, says Random House associate publishing director Cathy Goldsmith.
“I actually think he wrote this book and spun immediately into One Fish Two Fish,” says Goldsmith, who worked with Geisel for 11 years as the designer and art director of his final six books. “They’re very closely related; the kids are the same and they both have pets in them.”
“Pets were very important to him,” she adds of the author, who owned dogs as a child and an adult.
Goldsmith, who played an instrumental role in piecing together the pages of Geisel’s orphaned manuscript, estimates he wrote it in 1959 or 1960.
“He was famous for working on more than one book at a time,” she explains. “He would start something, he would get another idea and go off in another direction and then something else would happen and he would end up someplace else.”
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As fate would have it, Geisel never returned to The Pet Shop. He never got around to coloring in the illustrations with colored pencils, as he usually did, and the typed text that he had taped to the drawings had come loose over the years.
But “the tools were there,” says Goldsmith – and luckily she knew just how to use them.
The publishing director knows Geisel’s signature style and creative process well. She even helped him finish the coloring for his last original book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, when he fell ill – a complicated process that involved not only deciding “where the green goes but also which green from a color chart that maybe has, say, 50 different greens on it,” she explains.
Once Goldsmith and her colleagues at Random House decided on a color scheme, they had to determine which versions of Geisel’s original text to use – as there were often multiple to choose from, taped one on top of the other on the illustrations.
“We had some sorting to do,” she says. “But it’s not unlike what happens when you work on any book. The only difference is in this case, our author is not with us. But he did a pretty good job of leaving us prepared so that was the good news.”
More good news: The manuscript wasn’t the only thing Geisel’s widow recovered from the box of forsaken doodles. She also found a complete set of colorful alphabet flashcards featuring the author’s unmistakable characters.
Goldsmith says she doesn’t know what Geisel had in mind for the cards but “everybody loves them. I don’t know what if anything can be done with them, but somebody will put their mind to that at some point.”
Using the cards to teach children the alphabet would be “rather anarchic,” she says.
“But,” she adds after a pause, “so much of Ted’s work was breaking the rules and teaching children in a way that hadn’t been thought of before.”
As for What Pet Should I Get?, Goldsmith says she believes Geisel would be “happy and proud” of the final product.
“What I always say to myself when I work on something of his without him is, ‘If he were here and still alive, he would be writing books for kids and helping us publish them – but he’s not.’ And so we do the best we can based on what we learned from him.”
“The gist of this book is his and that’s better than most of what we start with,” she adds. “At the end of the day, I think he would be pleased.”