The Unknown Seuss

by Cie McCullough Buschle on March 2, 2011

in Arts and Culture

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The first book my daughter ever read was Green Eggs and Ham. She carried it with her everywhere. She even slept with it, making sure it was under her pillow every night.

Eventually it had to go back to the school and I had to get her a copy of her own, which is still kept close in her room, although at age eleven I am betting she doesn’t quite know where it is.

Of course, we all know who wrote Green Eggs and Ham – it was Dr Seuss. If a Dr Seuss book wasn’t your first book, then it was your kid’s, or maybe your niece or nephew or a grandkid.

Dr Seuss, or Theodore Seuss Geisel, is probably the best known children’s book author in two centuries. After all, he wrote over 60 books, mostly under the well known pseudonym Dr Seuss. A few books, those he didn’t illustrate, were written using the name Theo LeSieg, and one book inexplicably used the pen name Rosetta Stone.

But one thing most adult fans of Dr Seuss don’t know is that there are two adult Dr Seuss books.

No, I don’t mean as in The Places You’ll Go can be read to elementary grades but makes a great gift for a graduating college student. And not like The Sneetches is funny for kids but holds a message about consumerism and classism.

Dr Seuss wrote  two honest to goodness written for adults books, and I bet you’ll be quite surprised by one of them.

clip_image004The most recent of Seuss’ adult books was published in 1986, and came about after spending quite a bit of time in the hospital. You’re Only Old Once! A Book For Obsolete Children was based on sketches and doodles done of medical machines and procedures plus the extra pokes and prodding endured while recuperating.

It was released on Geisel’s 82nd birthday and spent over 60 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List.

The first of Dr Seuss’ adult books was written back in 1939, and it was actually his fourth book and a terrible failure.

clip_image006It sold fewer than 2,500 copies and Seuss swore he would henceforth write for children, as they were "more appreciative". He considered it his biggest failure. And the name of that book? The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History’s Barest Family.

Yes. The fourth book Dr Seuss ever wrote was about bare naked ladies. With illustrations no less! Is it really any wonder Great Depression readers failed to grab up copies?

The book was reprinted in 1987 and, Dr Seuss now being a household name, sold like any Dr Seuss book should. The pictures are really rather ridiculous and look more like silly ladies in nude body suits than anything risque.

Of course, if you would still like one of the original 1939 version they sell for approximately $300. I did however see a signed presentation copy on Amazon for a mere $1,286.

Not something I’m going to give my daughter any time soon, even if she does promise to keep it safe under her pillow every night.

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In researching this article, I found a fun book based on Dr Seuss’ wisdom:

Seuss-isms: Wise and Witty Prescriptions for Living from the Good Doctor

| Cie McCullough Buschle lives with her dog Einstein and a cat named Burton Guster. She is a lifelong traveler and enjoys researching history through holidays, toys, and everyday objects. Cie is a sculptor and co-owns The Creative Chameleon, a place where kids and adults can create, paint, celebrate, and just have a lot of fun. Sometimes you can find her time traveling back to the Middle Ages as part of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Dawn Morris March 2, 2011 at 9:47 am

Thanks for sharing these, Sandra! I’ve been meaning to take a look at some of his lesser-known books.

My children loved Green Eggs and Ham too, especially when they were learning to read. It’s certainly a memorable picture book, and one that adults can take something away from too.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Cie March 2, 2011 at 9:56 am

Did you know Green Eggs and Ham contains only 50 words? Seuss wrote it after making a bet with his publisher.

Sandra Foyt March 2, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Is it exactly 50 words?

Cie March 2, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Yup
The entire text contains just fifty different words, although they are used over and over again in different sentences 🙂

Cie April 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Since I wrote this article, I found out a friend of mine actually owns The Seven Lady Godivas. She was going to bring it over to let me see it, but guess what? She took a look at the publication date – it’s an original copy! Now she is telling everyone “Without Cie it would have just been sitting on my shelf and I would have never known!”

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