Dr. Seuss's The Bippolo Seed (And Other Lost Stories)
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
The "new" Seuss collection you've never seen!
Well, isn't this a nice surprise!
Dr. Seuss historian Charles D. Cohen (see the Seuss books he's written) was doing some research and found references to some Seuss stories he'd never read.
He did some digging, and guess what!... He found seven stories published in Redbook Magazine between 1948 and 1959 that never found their way into book form.
These are NOT posthumous stories that Seuss never wanted to see the light of day. (Think Daisy-Head Mayzie.) The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories are stories he actually was proud enough to have published, and they feature original Seuss artwork as well.
Seven new (to us) Seuss stories, 20 years after his death. Lucky us! Let me walk you through them...
The Bippolo Seed
Cohen chose well in making The Bippolo Seed the title story. The text of this piece is plenty long enough to be its own book but was only accompanied by four illustrations.
A "young duck named McKluck" comes across a silver box lying on the ground. Inside the box is a Bippolo seed, as well as instructions for its use.
You see, the Bippolo Tree is kind of a genie tree. You make a wish (you get the traditional number of three), and whatever you wish for grows out of the tree.
Well, lucky McKluck is getting ready to take advantage when along comes a cat. And this cat, like another rather famous Seussian cat, kind of likes to make trouble.
You see, McKluck was ready to make a rather modest wish, but the cat convinces him such a wish would be a complete waste. He urges on McKluck instead a plan that will make McKluck and his new partner (the cat, naturally) rich beyond their wildest dreams. And McKluck? Is he persuaded? Well...
"Say, I'll be the richest young duck in this world!"
And he got so excited, he whirled and he twirled!
And that duck got so dizzy and crazy with greed
That he waved both his arms, and the Bippolo Seed
Slipped out of his fist and flew high in the sky
And it landed "Kerplunk!" in a river nearby!
Then it sank in the river and drifted away.
And that cat and that duck, all the rest of that day
Dived deep in the river, but never did see
A trace of the Seed of the Bippolo Tree.
I'm having trouble thinking of another Seuss story where a decent hero allows himself to be brought low by a devilish cohort, so The Bippolo Seed certainly feels fresh and has a nice lesson to boot.
The Rabbit, the Bear, and the Zinniga-Zanniga
It's herbivore vs. carnivore in this story where a quick-talking rabbit about to be made a meal of distracts his would-be attacker with enough double-talk to make his getaway.
Can you say, What's up, Doc?
Seuss's clever rabbit convinces the dimwitted bear not only that he (the bear) is missing an eyelash on one side, but that this lack of balance betokens some rather awful health consequences that not even a bear chiropractor could hope to remedy. Re the missing eyelash:
"I guess that's the reason," the rabbit then said,
"For the lop-sided way that you're holding your head.
It's twisted! It's sagging! Because of the weight
Of your un-even lashes, you can't hold it straight.
Rabbit sends the hapless bear reeling into a full-blown bout of hypochondria, leaving him much worse off than for just having missed a meal. And there's a moral:
It's always the same when you fight with Big Guys...
A bit of Quick-Thinking counts much more than size!
Gustav, the Goldfish
Seuss's first wife.
Well, it turns out that one of Seuss's Redbook stories, Gustav, the Goldfish, describes precisely the same events, only in rhyme and with illustrations by Seuss!
The man who sold Gustav the Goldfish to us
Had warned us, "Take care! When you feed this small cuss
Just feed him a spot. If you feed him a lot,
Then something might happen! It's hard to say what."
It's as if his wife was translating him into the simplest prose. Needless to say, if you're older than age 2 - as I am - this "new" version is a heck of a lot more fun.
Tadd and Todd
Tadd and Todd are identical twins. WAY identical.
Todd thinks that's great. Tadd has it in his head to be his own person - or at least to be recognizable as Tadd, not Todd.
So Tadd (on the left side) one day said to Todd,
"I DON'T want to be like two peas in a pod!"
Tadd sets out to be different, first by dyeing his hair.
But Todd dyes it the same color.
Then, in a spasm of inspired Seussian silliness, Tadd takes it to a new level. He outfits himself in pretty much the silliest outfit imaginable - complete with umbrella, balloons, stilts, an attached bird, an attached dog, the bust of an old General, and a rose between his toes. But guess what?...
Todd turns out to have the exact same outfit.
Nothing particularly deep here, though Tadd learns to appreciate his lot.
Steak for Supper
I suspect this story had more resonance when originally published in 1950.
Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel in real life) had worked for the army in support of the U.S. war effort in WW II, and he'd done much the same as an editorial cartoonist. He was, in effect, something of a propagandist at the time.
You've likely heard the expression, Loose lips sink ships, which grew out of that same U.S. war effort. Well, Steak for Supper seems like an age-appropriate explanation of loose-lips-sink-ships logic.
A young boy walking home on a Saturday makes the mistake of spilling the beans that his family eats steak for dinner every Saturday night. Well, pretty soon he has a legion of uninvited Seussian creatures following him home, expecting to share in the meal...
A Nupper for supper! A Gritch! And a Grickle!
And also an Ikka! Oh, boy! What a pickle!
Turns out the freeloaders turn tail when they find out that all there is for dinner THIS Saturday is stew.
A little reminiscent of Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose.
The Strange Shirt Spot
Remember in The Cat in the Hat when the cat's antics result in a transferable stain? It starts as a bathtub ring (the cat was eating cake in there), but then the stain adheres to every subsequent object used to clean it.
It turns out that aspect of The Cat in the Hat was first explored by Seuss here.
A boy gets a spot on his shirt, but this time there is no Little Cat Z to unleash a Voom to make the stain go away.
What kind of a spot WAS this spot I had found?
The way the darned thing kept on jumping around!
And unlike in the later book, Mom gets home before things can be remedied.
The Great Henry McBride
Like all children, Henry McBride dreams of what he wants to be when he grows up. But because he's a kid, and because all things seem possible...
He dreams of being ALL the things he wants to be. None of this ridiculous limiting oneself to one thing.
The man who does EVERYTHING! Wow! He's a whiz!
Why, he's got the very best job that there is!
The Seal-Training Doctor! Just look at him ride!
The Broadcasting-Rabbit-Man, Two-Gun McBride!"
Henry reminds me of perhaps my favorite Seuss hero, that mentally healthy boy in McElligot's Pool. He knows maybe he's not being realistic, but he also knows that believing at least a little bit that all things are possible is the secret to happiness. Knows this better than any adult would.
Yep! I'll pick the very best job that I can
When I finally grow up and turn into a man.
But now...well, right now when I'm still sort of small,
The BEST job is dreaming, with no work at all.
Book review - The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories
How exciting to add seven new Seuss stories to the canon!
Now, don't expect each story to be better than the one you just finished reading. The publisher leads with strength - The Bippolo Seed, The Rabbit, the Bear, and the Zinniga-Zanniga and Gustav, the Goldfish are clearly the best of the stories, though the others certainly have their joys.
While some of the stories are long enough, by Seuss standards, to justify their own book, the fact is that they aren't as densely packed with illustrations as the Seuss books we're used to. (Redbook had to leave room for ads, remember?) So, for instance, The Bippolo Seed contains only four (wonderful) illustrations, and the others from three to twelve. (Gustav, the Goldfish is the biggest treat, illustration-wise.)
And don't expect new ground to be broken on gender. The characters, in typical Seuss fashion, are all male (though the loose-lipped boy in Steak for Supper certainly looks like a girl. Perhaps Redbook insisted on a change).
All in all, it's hard to argue with the value of seven "new" Seuss stories packed into one book. The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories is truly an unexpected gift.
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