Dr. Seuss Book: Yes, They Found It in a Box


Alexandra Alter writes:

After Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, died in 1991, his widow, Audrey Geisel, decided to renovate their hilltop house in La Jolla, Calif. She and an assistant cleared out his office, donating most of his valuable illustrations and early drafts to the University of California, San Diego, and stashing some doodles and abandoned sketches in a box.

It wasn’t until October 2013, when they decided to have the rest of his notes and sketches appraised, that they closely examined the contents of that box. They found a set of brightly colored alphabet flash cards, some rough sketches titled “The Horse Museum,” and a manila folder marked “Noble Failures,” with whimsical drawings that he had been unable to find a place for in his stories.

But alongside the orphaned sketches was a more complete project labeled “The Pet Shop,” 16 black-and-white illustrations, with text that he had typed on paper and taped to the drawings. The pages were stained and yellowed, but the story was all there, in Dr. Seuss’ unmistakable rollicking rhymes.

“We didn’t know that we had such a treasure,” said the assistant, Claudia Prescott, who started working for Mr. Geisel in 1972 and now helps Ms. Geisel, 93, run Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

Through painstaking work and a meticulous, almost forensic reconstruction of Mr. Geisel’s creative process, those abandoned pages have yielded an unexpected new Dr. Seuss book, now called “What Pet Should I Get?” When Random House publishes it on Tuesday, with a first printing of one million copies, it will add a surprising coda to Dr. Seuss’ sizable canon.

Mr. Geisel wrote and illustrated 44 children’s books in his lifetime, including classics like “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham,” which helped generations of children learn to read. His enduring popularity among young readers is virtually unmatched. His books have sold more than 650 million copies globally, and sales continue to rise each year.

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