Something Seuss

THERE’S so more to Dr Seuss than green eggs and ham, as a Perth exhibition of works from every facet of the great man’s life will show.

It includes rare early works through to iconic illustrations from the Dr Seuss children’s books, along with limited edition prints and bizarre sculptures.

But don’t expect originals: those priceless pieces are under lock and key at the Dr Seuss archive at the Californian University, and never travel, The Art of Seuss director and curator Bill Dreyer told the Voice.

“These are authorised estate editions.”

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The late author and illustrator is known and loved for scores of deceptively poignant books including Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who, The Lorax—and, of course, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

His themes touch on the nature of God and the universe, environmental degradation from rampant capitalism, confronting bigotry, exorcising fear and so much more.

Theodor Seuss Geisel was drawing and painting long before his first book made it into print. Working hard at his day job in advertising and PR, he painted at night for his own pleasure: “[His] secret art or midnight paintings,” Mr Dreyer’s soft American accent drawls down the phone line from the US.

The images on display include adult versions of the children’s books’ illustrations, cartoon-like and humorous, but with darker and more edgy subtexts.

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“You will see his trademark look and feel [but] it stretches well beyond the children’s books…a feast of visual stunners, dense with ideas,” Mr Dreyer says.

Other pictures are surreal, almost Picasso-like: “cubist, and show a side you might not know or expect.”

Gin-drinking in his university dorm in Britain can be thanked for Geisel’s famous pseudonym.

ºHe and nine mates had been caught by the Dean, who subsequently banned the 21-year-old from working on a college magazine—so he continued, working under the pen name Seuss.

Back in the US, Geisel’s first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, (1936) was rejected by scores of publishers. On his way home to throw it in the fire he met an old uni friend from the UK, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Geisel’s fame exploded at home and internationally when in 1954 he was asked by the US education director to write a book using the 250 words he felt were the most important for grade one kids to learn. A report had concluded youngsters weren’t reading because books were boring.

Nine months later The Cat in the Hat was in classrooms and the way kids read was revolutionised—so much so that Geisel’s birthday (March 2) is National Read Across America Day.

This delightful, must-see exhibition is open Monday to Friday, December 8–23, at Central Park Lobby, 158 St Georges Terrace, Perth.

by JENNY D’ANGER

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