What Pet Should I Get?
by Dr. Seuss (sort of)


Dr. Seuss's What Pet Should I Get?

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 3-7

What pet should you get? Not this one.

"Isn't it great that they found another Dr. Seuss manuscript in a drawer and they're publishing it?"

No. No, it's not. I think we can assume that if Mr. Geisel had thought the manuscript ready and good enough that he would have sent it along to his editor of his own volition.

Review - What Pet Should I Get?

My own outrage on the deceased author's behalf kicked in when I read this paragraph from an interview with the new book's editor, Cathy Goldsmith, ahead of publication:

Little cuts were made to omit needless syllables and help things flow. “If we can see a way to get the extra beats out and keep the message the same, we try to do that.”

Yes, great idea. (Sarcasm intended.) Destroy Seuss's inimitable sense of rhythm by tossing out the "extra" syllables. (Maybe for your next project, you could make Beatrix Potter's creatures "cuter" by tossing out all the "extra" brushstrokes!)

One has to read no further than the first page to realize how unready this manuscript was.

We want a pet.
We want a pet.
What kind of pet
should we get?


Dr. Seuss may have written that...as a first draft. As a placeholder. Compare its lack of rhythm and substance to the opening stanza of The Cat in the Hat.


The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house.
All that cold, cold, wet day.


Why compare to The Cat in the Hat? Because the two books have identically metered titles.

The Cat in the Hat was written in anapestic tetrameter. What Pet Should I Get? has no consistent meter.

So let's look at those stanzas again, side by side:

We want a pet.
We want a pet.
What kind of pet
should we get?

The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house.
All that cold, cold, wet day.


Could they flow more differently? The classic one sings. The "new" one sounds like it was group-written by a sixth grade cheerleading squad. (With the help of Ms. Goldsmith, who surely would have cut one of the colds from The Cat's first page.)

But forget meter and compare the content. What Pet contains are two tiny thoughts and repetition that's already starting to put us to sleep. The Cat establishes a very distinct setting artfully and literately.

Sigh.

In What Pet Should I Get?, Seuss introduces a single new Seussian creature: the Yent. (Which, of course, needs to live in a tent.) But surely Seuss would have given us a plethora of such creatures for this book before handing it over to the publisher, rather than just one.

One is a decidedly odd, and lonely, number. Here's how many Seuss animals you'd find on a single two-page spread of If I Ran the Zoo:

'An It-Kutch, a Preep and a Proo, a Nerkill, a Nerd and a Seersucker too.'

It's not that there's absolutely no merit to What Pet Should I Get? The artwork is very much Seuss's, and the colors are pleasing. There's even the beginning of a story.

Does this look like an ending to you?

But it ends abruptly...and on the 31st page.

I feel safe in assuming that Seuss hadn't planned a 31 page book, nor did he intend for this one to end where it does.

(We don't even find out "what pet" the two child characters "get." They emerge from the pet store with their new creature hidden in a basket.)

And I think we can also assume the good Doctor didn't intend for this image to appear on two different two-page spreads:

Did Seuss ever use the same image twice? Not in my memory.

My edition of the book contains a "Notes from the Publisher" section, much denser than the book, telling something of Dr. Seuss's personal history with animals. We also learn, interestingly, that What Pet Should I Get? may actually have become One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

(Ironic that it was published at the exact same time as Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, itself essentially an early draft of the beloved To Kill a Mockingbird. Both Mockingbird and One Fish Two Fish were published in 1960!)

So the only way I can recommend What Pet Should I Get? is if you already own every other Seuss book. If not, treat your family to one that he wanted you to see.

In particular, Hunches in Bunches is an infinitely better Seuss book about having too many choices.

Or check out what a respectful treatment of one of the author's partial manuscripts looks like.

More Seuss.

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