Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Amazing Dr. Seuss

I'm a transplant to the South (Little Rock, AR) and our family has loved our adopted home.  No place is perfect, and last night's severe weather is one of the few down sides.  It's so hard to be relieved that we're OK when we know that so many near us have lost homes and some their lives.  Another round today, but the sun hasn't come out and it's still cool so hopefully that helps keep the really bad storms from forming though they have just come out with a severe warning for this afternoon (they rarely issue these).

One of the many good things about Little Rock, though, is the Clinton Presidential Library.  Whether you love or hate the Clintons, the library is run by the park service and gets an ever changing  run of traveling exhibitions that we would not see in a town this size without the library. Currently, they are showing The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss  (the exhibit is in conjunction with publication of a book of the same name).   I took the time to visit and remembered how much I love the good Dr.

When I was a sprout we often went to the Orem, UT public library.  It wasn't the elegant building with the wall of stained glass that's there today but a more humble building. The childrens library was in the basement so I would run down the stairs and check out the niche at the bottom where were displayed the Dr. Seuss books.  They were wildly popular and often all checked out.  I (and all the other kids) could check out only one at a time.  Here I met Thidwick the Big Hearted Moose     One of the BLGrandbabies had a school assignment to read a book to a relative and she called me and read this.  It was as wonderful as when I read it when was her age.
 as well as Bartholomew, Horton, and of coarse, The Cat In The Hat.  Several generations now have learned to read with Dr. Seuss but I'm of the age that I was one of the first.  This exhibit made me realize how Dr. Seuss's work almost always had a wonderful moral.  The American Bar Association has a lesson used by many school children that has the children do a  mock trial based on Yertle the Turtle.  It teaches about due process and how to over throw dictators.  Not bad for a kids book.  BLHubby and I were at the Wal-Mart and saw a t-shirt with a Dr. Seuss logo and a simple star on the front.  A clear reference to The Sneetches. I told the hubs that I loved it when Dr. Seuss was a bit preachy.  I love when the Lorax says "I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees."   though that book was written when I was in college. 

The Clinton Library exhibit focused on Dr. Suess's (Theodor Seuss Geisel - called "Ted") early work, before childrens books.  He did a lot of magazine covers and illustration and was a popular political cartoonist  before he wrote childrens books but his quirky style is there even early on.  One of my favorite parts of the exhibit was a booklet he wrote and illustrated when he was in the army in WWII that in classic Seuss mode warned soldiers about  Ann, the malaria caring mosquito.  The "Secret" art was art he did for himself that was rarely published.  It had his familiar style but with funny captions and is delightful.

I know I said I liked the malaria booklet but I was touched and delighted by another part of the exhibit. When his childrens books became wildly popular a major TV advertiser wanted to use his books/art as part of a Christmas ad campaign.  His agent is quoted in the exhibit as saying  Geisel was a genius and a gentleman and that it was easy to represent a genius but hard to represent a gentleman.  The agent knew that Geisel would not like to see these beloved childrens books exploited for advertising and he was correct.  When the advertiser offered an enormous amount of money Ted Geisel painted A Prayer for A Child with it's accomping poem.  He said the advertiser could use this art and text but only if they used it in it's entirety. 

From here on earth,
From my small place
I ask of You 
Way out in space:
Please tell all men
In every land
What You and I
Both understand . . .
Please tell all men
That Peace is Good.
That’s all
That need be understood
In every world
In Your great sky.
(We understand.
Both You and I.)
The advertiser declined to use this (which Dr. Seuss thought he would).  Ted Geisel was supposed to have said that he was proud to have turned down the offer that would have been the most paid ever per line of advertising copy.   The estate of Dr. Seuss produces limited (and expensive) prints of some of his "secret" previously unpublished art ad copies of some of his other work.  I just put "A Prayer For A Child" on the top of my list of "Things I want but won't ever pay the price for".   I think I could be happy with one of his quotes on the wall like this one.

1 comment:

  1. I learned to love Dr. Seuss early - what a blessing he has been to my reading daughter and me!