Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Buried Treasures: The Bippolo Seed: Lost Stories by Dr. Seuss

The not-exactly lost stories of Theodore Seuss Geisel, moldering away in various periodicals in which they appeared in the 1930s and early '40s, have been resurrected, their faded color illustrations enhanced, and published for the first time in picture-book form by Seussophile Charles D. Cohen.

Going through Geisel's earlier work is a bit like an archaeological dig. Cohen's theory is that Seuss, a former adman and illustrator, had been focused on the visual impact of his illustrations until World War II convinced him of the importance of the message of children's books. His postwar stories, published in household magazines like Redbook and Children's Activities offer a transition to emphasis on theme, vestigial versions of Seuss' later subjects, the value of free-range imagination, samples of what Cohen calls his "bizarre bestiary," and prototypes of the Cat in the Hat (as Big Cat), the "fish in the bowl," and the seemingly irremovable spot. along with his now instantly recognizable anapestic pentameter.

In seven stories, including "The Bippola Seed," "Gustav the Goldfish," "The Rabbit, The Bear, and the Zinniga Zanniga," and "The Great Henry McBride" Cohen brings us both a preview of the mature beloved author and delightful stories in process from the fertile mind of Geisel. The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories, (Random House, 2011) edited by Charles Cohen, are too good to miss, a blast from the past from Dr. Seuss.

Publishers Weekly piles on the praise as well: "The stories' rhymed couplets are pitch-perfect, the verse's rhythm as snappy as in any of Seuss's better-known works...[F]ans old and young will deem these 'lost' stories a tremendous find."

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