Tuesday, March 3

Dr. Seuss, Continued.

So, as I mentioned yesterday, I'm quite a fan.  I'm a fan of the writing, I'm a fan of reading them out loud, I'm a fan of the rhyming scheme, and I'm especially a fan of the politics.  Okay, okay, so some people think that Horton Hears a Who is pro-life, but I don't know that for sure, and it holds another meaning for me anyway.  So many are great.  The power of imagination and exaggeration in And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.  The criticism of Hitler in his WWII political cartoons.  The anti-nuke message of the Butter Battle Book.  The lessons about discrimination in the Sneeches.  The value of responsibility in Horton Hatches the Egg.  The condemnation of dictatorship in Yertle the Turtle.  The---dare I say--socialist message in King Looie Katz.  the powerful message about fear in What Was I Scared Of?  The mocking of capitalism and greed in The Bippolo Seed.  

I could go on.

Wait, you say!  Wait just a darn minute, you say!  You made up that "Bippolo Seed" thing.  I never heard of that one, you say.  Well, just shows to go ya, you learn something new every day. That's just the thing.  You're right. You've never heard of it.  I've never met anyone who has (at least outside my family of origin).  But it exists.  And I have it.  Here it is (too small to read, but big enough to be proof):


When I was a kid, this was my very favorite Dr. Seuss story. I knew it by memory.  I recited it in living rooms.  I had a little cat and duck puppet (I probably still do, somewhere) and I did the whole story in a puppet show.  I had it because my mother cut it out of Redbook magazine (where a whole bunch of wonderful Dr. Seuss stories were published) in 1951, and carefully saved it.  She would pull it out of the dining room drawer, like a treasure.  I got the message loud and clear.  It's 45 years later, and it's my treasure now.  But wait, the story doesn't end there.

It was a wonderful privilege to have this story, to know and love a Dr. Seuss story that no one else knew.  But it was also kind of lonely.  I wished that others could love it as much as I did.  So when I became an adult (also quite a while back now), I started a campaign to get the story published as a book.  I wrote to publishers, I did research, I spoke about it, I tried to spread the word.  I really wanted the story in book form.  

I don't mean to make it sound like I worked on it full time.  It was more like something did every few years, when I came across the story in my drawer.  I wrote a letter, or two.  I made a phone call, or two.  I wished.  It never really worked, but I kept trying.  And then in 1991, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands.  I would write to Dr. Seuss and see if I could talk him into getting it into book form.  If anyone could make it happen, he could.  So I did.  And I got this letter back:

It says:  "Thank you, Robin Einzig, for still liking that old story.  The Bippolo Seed was published by Redbook Magazine exactly 40 years ago..June 1951.  For some reason or other, it never found its way into a book.  But, since you still like it, maybe now it will!  Dr. Seuss" (I particularly love the stationery and the fact that his signature looks the same as it appears on the covers of his books).   

Dr. Seuss died three months later, on September 24.  I have tried several times since, through Random House, through his widow (who seems to have VERY different politics than her husband did), even through the press at the opening of the Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden in Springfield, MA (his home town)...you can read the article about my "one-woman campaign" here.  N0 such luck.  It was an exciting run while it lasted.

Since there is  no way to share it with the world, since I still know a portion by memory, since I don't think I can get in trouble for sharing a small section of it (those lawyers are ruthless), and since yesterday would have been his 105th birthday, I share the opening passage with you here:

One bright sunny day, a young duck named McCluck
Had a wonderful, wonderful, piece of good luck
He was walking along, when he spied on the ground
A marvelous thing that is quite seldom found.
'Twas a small silver box.  And it looked mighty old.
And on top of the box, it was written in gold:
"Who finds this rare box will be lucky, indeed
For inside this box is a Bippolo Seed!
Plant it and wish! And then count to three!
Whatever you wish for, whatever it be,
Will sprout and grow out of a Bippolo Tree!"

"Well!", thought the duck, "Well, now, what do you know?"
I just have to wish and my wishes will grow.
Now what'll I wish for...?  Now, what do I need..?
Don't need very much....only food for my feed.
So I wish," said the duck, as he opened his beak,
"I wish for some duck food.  Enough for a week."
Then he dug a quick hole.  But before he could drop
The seed in the ground, a loud voice shouted "Stop!"
The duck looked around and he saw a big cat.
"Now why," asked the cat, "did you wish for just that?"

....and it goes on from there.  It's a wonderful story.  Trust me.

I hope you read a Dr. Seuss book yesterday. If you didn't, there's still time. If you need a suggestion, let me know what you are about, and I'll recommend one.  Happy Birthday, Mr. Geisel.  And thanks.



Janerz said...

What a treasure indeed. 2 in fact - the story itself and the letter from Dr. Suess! Thanks for sharing.

I, too, love his sense of meter. Too much of what passes for rhyme has horrid meter. When you grow up with Suess, the bar is high indeed.

Arial Ray said...

My favourite Dr Seuss has always been "On Beyond Zebra." I love that he didn't limit himself to the conventional, and in doing so, he encouraged children to be creative, go beyond established limits, and use their imaginations.

Charles D. Cohen said...

Your wish should be coming true in 2010 with the publication of The Lost Stories of Dr. Seuss, which will contain seven great forgotten gems, including The Bippolo Seed.

Robin said...

WOW! What great news! Thanks for letting me know! (and how did you find my blog?)