The lost (and found) Dr. Seuss
Abook that captures a child’s love, devotion and imagination is a prized possession, indeed. If this book can transcend generations and changing attitudes, it should be regarded as legendary.
Many great works, including Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon,” Robert McCloskey’s “Make Way for Ducklings” and Richard Scarry’s “Best Word Book Ever” fit this designation. When it comes to declaring the world’s most beloved children’s books, few share the same stage with Dr. Seuss.
This talented writer and illustrator, whose real name was Theodore Seuss Geisel, created more than 60 memorable books. The list includes: “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” (1937), “If I Ran The Zoo” (1950), “Horton Hears a Who” (1954), “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1957), “The Cat in the Hat” (1957), “Green Eggs and Ham” (1960), “Fox in Socks” (1965) and “The Lorax” (1971).
By the time his final book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go,” was published in 1990, Dr. Seuss stories could be found in special corners of our children’s bookshelves. Many contain well-thumbed pages, and a few covers were scratched or torn. These mild blemishes only add to the charm and mystique of the wacky, silly and zany Seussian tales.
Here’s the most unusual (and enjoyable) thing about Dr. Seuss books. Although the author passed away in 1991, we’re still discovering new stories. In 2011, seven Dr. Seuss tales were published in one volume, “The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories.” These stories were originally published between 1948 and 1959 in Redbook, a women’s magazine that is more than a century old. They were never collected in book form, and had been forgotten by Father Time. Fortunately, they were unearthed by well-known Seuss scholar, Charles D. Cohen, and declared to be “the literary equivalent of buried treasure” by its publisher, Random House.
Well, it’s time for Dr. Seuss fans to rejoice again. Four more Redbook stories, published between 1950 and 1957, have been rediscovered. They have been published in a new book, “Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories.” If you loved Dr. Seuss as a child (and as an adult), these little-known stories will bring back many fond memories.
The first tale, “Horton and the Kwuggerbug,” is Horton the elephant’s third appearance. Yet, as Mr. Cohen points out, “it was actually the second story that [Dr. Seuss] wrote about Horton.” The elephant and Kwuggerbug meet and travel to the latter’s Beezlenut tree, “Then half of the nuts are for you. Half for me.” Horton fends off crocodiles (“Just look at their terrible teeth. How they flash. They’ll chew me right up into elephant hash”), scales a mountain and reaches the tree.
“A deal is a deal,” as the story goes. Mr. Cohen points out “Horton’s faithfulness, good nature and patience are tested” because it turns out he has been “suckered into helping a manipulative Kwuggerbug.” Not to worry, dear readers. The elephant comes out well in the end.
Another tale is “The Hoobub and the Grinch.” It’s only two pages, but a joy to behold. This rendition of the Grinch “may not look exactly like his famous Christmas-stealing namesake,” according to Mr. Cohen, but they are “related by their devious intentions and preoccupations with consumerism.”
The Hoobub is outside enjoying the sun. The Grinch walks by, and attempts to sell him “a piece of green string,” which is “worth a lot more than that oldfashioned sun.” Here’s part of his sales pitch:
“But it is, grinned the Grinch. Let me give you the reasons.
The sun’s only good in a couple short seasons.
For you’ll have to admit that in winter and fall
The sun is quite weak. It is not strong at all.
But this wonderful piece of green string I have here
Is strong, my good friend, every month of the year.”
At a price tag of 98 cents, the naive Hoobub becomes a willing customer.
The other two stories deal with Mulberry Street characters: “Marco Comes Late,” about the pint-sized hero, and “How Officer Pat Saved the Whole Town,” about the town’s policeman. If you treasured the original story, you’ll enjoy learning more about Marco and Officer Pat’s exploits.
“Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories” contain adventures I wish that I had read as a child. Regardless, I’m glad these old Dr. Seuss stories are “new” again. It allows me to read them to my son at bedtime, and still be magically carried off into Seussland. Michael Taube is a contributor to The Washington Times.