The Bippolo Seed
Monday August 25th 2014, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Life

I was going through things, as one does before guests come, and (as one also does, distracted) I opened a book.

I had given it to my sweetie for Christmas: hey look, a Dr. Seuss we’d never heard of!

It was a collection of some of his older stories, published in magazines before he’d made it big as a children’s author, many almost lost to time. A chance request to him for a new copy of The Bippolo Seed just before his death propelled the recovery of the old work, helped by a scholar specializing in all things Seuss.

Charles Cohen recounts in the forward the various art and writing the man was doing in his early life.

His first children’s book was turned down endlessly and Wikipedia quotes Geisel as saying that he was walking home to burn the manuscript when by chance he ran into an old classmate, who got it published.

But that was all just a sideline.

World War Two changed Geisel’s direction. He felt the indoctrination by propaganda of Japanese and German children was a crime against humanity and he wanted to do something about it, and he started writing a lot more for children. Doodling to change the world.

Some of his books rhymed, most didn’t.

But in 1949 he was at a writer’s conference in Salt Lake City and a couple there offered to show him the sights while he was in town: you’ve just got to go see the Great Salt Lake! (The scholar doesn’t mention the grand old salt palace at the shore that was a big part of the scene when my mom was growing up, but I can tell you there was architecture and history to visit as well as the lake itself.)

On the way there, the couple’s little boy (let’s call him Little Danny Lou Who), who was not much more than two, or at least not yet three, happily recited Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose for his new audience, showing off exuberantly the way kids do. While the childless Geisel marveled–how did a kid that young do that?

It was the sounds of the words, the bouncy bounce of the rhythm, me, I would say the musicality of them, reinforced by all those drawings made for celebrating–it changed everything.

And a little child shall lead them.

The rest is history.

2 Comments so far
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When my daughter was in kindergarten her class would go to the school library once a week to pick out a book to read at home. She chose Thidwick every week until the librarian finally sent home a note asking that I “suggest” she try to select a variety of books. She did! She alternated between Thidwick and The Lorax, two of my now favorite Dr. Seuss books!

Comment by Jody 08.26.14 @ 3:35 am

I have this book for all the kidlets, waiting for whenever I think they’re ready for it. I don’t think it’s for the very littles, somehow. Maybe I should look at it again?

Comment by Susan (sjanova) 08.27.14 @ 6:53 pm

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