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Dr. Seuss expert finds more 'lost' stories

by Alex Cohen | Take Two®

"Lost" Dr. Seuss stories are being released in a new book Tuesday. Random House Children's Books

A book of "lost" stories from Dr. Seuss comes out Tuesday so it is only appropriate to share the news with rhyme. 

Good news, dear listeners, I am about to bear.

For readers who adore all Dr. Seuss fare

There's a new book out, of the master's lost stories.

With pictures and rhymes and all Dr. Seuss glories.

Discovered by a dentist living on the east coast,

Who now is my guest, I am happy to boast.

Dr. Charles D. Cohen is no relation of mine,

But happily he joins us today on the line. 

There are so many questions I'd like to ask you,

Dr. Charles D. Cohen, welcome to Take Two!

Related: Horton meets a ... who? Introducing the Kwuggerbug, from Seuss' 'Lost Stories'

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

When did your fascination with Dr. Seuss begin?

Like most people, born especially after 1957, I grew up reading Dr. Seuss books and they made quite an impression on me.  I was particularly taken with the messages about tolerance and the importance of the imagination. And then in the late 1980s I caught an exhibit called "Dr. Seuss: From Then to Now" that was touring the country and that's when I learned that Dr. Seuss, or Ted Geisel, had done something outside his Dr. Seuss books. He died a few years later in 1991 and I started trying to find out a little more about him. The more I tried to learn the more misinformation I found and that made me obsessed to find out what the truth was. Twenty-five thousand hours of research later, here we are.

Tell us about this new book, "Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories."

The title story stars Horton the Elephant, the same character that hatches the egg and heard the Whos. Marco Comes Late has the same young boy from "And To Think That I Saw it On Mulberry Street." And there's a Grinch in the final piece called "The Hoobub and the Grinch" so the characters and places should have some familiarity for people but the stories they've probably never heard of, let alone read.

Where did you find these "lost" stories?

They were around it's just that nobody had seen them in about 60 years and for many people that amounts to them not being available during their lifetimes. I spent a full year trying to track down the four parts to the first story I was looking for and then I began to track down other ones, eventually turning to eBay, garage sales, used bookstores, wherever I could find them. 

These are mostly in Redbook magazines and things like that, right?

All the ones in "Horton and the Kwuggerbug" are from Redbook.

You have really interesting notes about Dr. Seuss at the beginning of the book where you mention this theme of "logical insanity" that runs throughout his books. Can you explain that? 

He had a famous quote about logical insanity. He said if he created a two-headed animal, there had to be two hats in the closet, two toothbrushes in its bathroom, and two sets of eyeglasses on its nightstand. He felt if he took a crazy idea but stayed consistent and played it out to its logical conclusion, readers would accept it.

The very last story in this book is titled "The Hoobub and the Grinch." The Grinch in this one is less like the Grinch who stole Christmas and more like Sam I Am in "Green Eggs and Ham." He's really selling something. You write that Ted Geisel was in advertising. How do you think that chapter of his life affected the books he wrote?

There is a race of Grinches, first of all. This one still tries to manipulate the consumerist feelings people have and tries to get them to buy things they don’t really need and I know that goes back to his advertising days.

He became known as Dr. Seuss, not for writing children's books, but for advertisements that he did. This whole book comes about because Ted was trying something different. These stories from Redbook were an attempt to get children to read at a younger age. He had an experience of a young boy, supposedly three years old, who recited all of "Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose" to him. He learned that the sound of his language is so infectious that even though the kids can't read yet, they can memorize what's going on in the stories. So if you pair that language with pictures that engage them, they're going to be drawn to it and want to learn how to read. These stories were his experiment of getting people to read out loud to their children and see if this would work. It's really hard to explain how he went from writing prose predominantly—he had 10 stories published before the first Redbook one and only four of them rhymed. These stories are how he got there. 

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