Published by Random House 2015
What Pet Should I Get? is the story of a boy and his sister, Kay, trying to decide what pet they should get. Their dad said he would pay for them to have one, but only one. At first it is simple a matter of deciding between a dog and a cat, but then there is a puppy and a kitten added to the mix.
In true Seussian style more and more animals are added to the list of possible pets. First come your average pets like a bird that sings, or a rabbit.
“Then I looked at Kay.
I said, ‘What will we do?
I like all the pets that I see.
So do you.
We have to pick ONE pet
and pick it out soon.
You know Mother told us
to be back by noon.”
Then it really starts to get crazy as our hero imagines all the pets he could pick from! Now we go into a classic Seussian list of imaginary creatures.
“If we had a big tent,
then we would be able
to take home a YENT!
Dad would like us
to have a good YENT.
BUT, how do I know
he would pay for the tent?
So, you see how it is
when you pick out a pet.
How can you make up
your mind what to get?”
For a moment our hero considers getting one of every kind of pet, but then he realizes his dad would be mad because he said to only get one and if they do not make up their minds soon then they will get none!
“‘I will do it right now.
I will do it!’ I said.
‘I will make up the mind
that is up in my head.”
And he does. The last image is them walking out of the pet shop with a couple of eyes peeping out of a big basket with a bow on top, but Seuss does not reveal what pet they decide on. He leaves that up to the reader’s imagination.
Unlike the short story collections that came out in 2013 and 2014 and are covered in the previous two blog posts, this was not put together by Charles D. Cohen. There is, however, a section at the back of the book titled Notes from the Publisher. There is no signature at the end or introduction that explains who the specific writer of the “notes” is, so the reader is lead to assume it is someone at Random House that is representing them as a whole.
The Notes From the Publisher section starts with a heartfelt message to the readers about the responsibilities of buying a pet.
“[When the book was written] it was common for people to simply buy dogs, cats, and other animals at pet stores. Today animal advocates encourage us to adopt them from a shelter or rescue organization and warn us never to purchase our pets from places that are supplied by puppy mills. We wholeheartedly agree and completely support this recommendation. Choosing to adopt can help save the life of an animal that may not otherwise get a second chance at finding a forever home.”
From here this section goes into some history about pets that Seuss had in his own life and includes a few pictures. I am not going to cover all of that in this post, but the first bit is too precious not to share. He actually started his pet menagerie at the age of six with a stuffed toy dog that he named Theophrastus (Seuss’ real name is Theodore Seuss Geisel.) He kept this dog for the rest of his life. Just days before his death he gave it to his stepdaughter (the closest he ever had to a child of his own.)
The Notes section continues into some general history about the career and success of Dr. Seuss throughout the years. It is interesting information, but things that most Seuss readers know and that I have covered in other posts, so I’ll skip forward to the information about this particular publication.
When Seuss died in 1991 his wife, Audrey, found a box of various materials and projects that Seuss had been working on. She set it aside. It was rediscovered in 2013 by Audrey and Claudia Prescott (Seuss longtime secretary.) The manuscript and line art for What Pet Should I Get? were included in this rich bounty.
There is a quote from Audrey:
“While undeniably special, it is not surprising to me that we found this because Ted always worked on multiple projects and started new things all the time–he was constantly writing and drawing and coming up with ideas for new stories.”
Cathy Goldsmith (Ted’s art director for the last 11 years of his life) was able to identify the artwork as being from 1958 to 1962. She recognized the children as being the same from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish! *
* from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.
The manuscript that Audrey and Claudia found was not completely finished. There was text tapped in with various versions on top of each other. There were also inked in lines and parts that were too faded to read.
“Like Kay and her brother, the editors at Random House had to make decisions and stick with them. We thought very carefully about each one, and we hope Dr. Seuss would be pleased-and that you will be, too.”
The images they found were also not complete. The line drawers were complete, but without color or color assignments. As the Art Director, Goldsmith decided to base the color palette off of One Fish, but One Fish was limited to only four colors (including black.) These colors are never mixed to make more colors, but after 1963 Seuss’ books began to have a more full color palette. Goldsmith chose to use this book as an in-between point.
“She colored all the backgrounds and objects in Pet blue or red or yellow or black. Mixed inks were used to create the colors of the real-life pets as well as the children’s hair and skin tone.”
My personal aesthetic would have been more pleased if they had fully committed to making the book feel like it was created and published in the 1958-1962 period of his work. I would have loved the limited color palette as well as publishing it in the size of a Beginner Book (which is what it would have been if it had been published in that time) rather than the full size of his more difficult to read books.
The writer of the Notes from the Publisher section does make the point that this book is not only about picking a pet, but also about making up your mind and Random House had to make some tough decisions and overall I think they stayed true to Dr. Seuss and published a delightful book.
“I might find a new one.
A fast kind of a thing
who would fly round my head
in a ring on a string!”
The addition of the word ring in the last line is not necessary for the rhyme scheme, but it adds an extra tongue twister aspect that makes it all the more fun to say.
This image appears twice in the story. The first time seems kind of odd because it is before any fantastical creatures are introduced. The second time feels much more appropriate because it leads into the imaginary creatures toward the end of the book. Either way, it is a delightful image with classic Seussian creatures and great Seuss style font. The whole image reminds readers that this may be newly published, but the images and the idea are classic Seuss.
Thank you for reading,
Jack St. Rebor