Right on the heels the publication of one of the greatest American novelists of all time, Harper Lee's re-discovered manuscript Go Set a Watchman , the greatest children's book author of all time will also release his "discovered" picture book manuscript. The new Dr. Seuss book What Pet Should I Get? hits shelves July 28, and it extends his already wondrous legacy the author has left on not just children's reading, but adults' too.
According to Random House in the new book's back matter, Dr. Seuss, aka Theodore “Ted” Geisel, wrote What Pet Should I Get? between 1958 and 1962, and it evolved into his whimsical One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. It even contains the two same main children characters. After Seuss's death in 1991, his wife Audrey put aside some of her husband's things, years later finding a completed manuscript for What Pet Should I Get? in the collection.
What Pet Should I Get?, like many Dr. Seuss books, is deceptively simple. A boy and his sister Kay take a trip to a pet store to pick out a new household companion. Their parents will allow them one pet only, and they have to make their decision by noon. The kids start basic, looking at the dogs and the cats, but their minds and eyes quickly wander to the fish, birds, and increasingly absurdist pets. Readers are left wondering just what their choice was, as we see the two kids leave the pet store with two eyes peeking out of a basket.
In this childlike simplicity, however, hides another great life lesson from Dr. Seuss.
"Oh boy, it is something to make a mind up!" the boy says during his trip to the pet store. We all feel you, kiddo. Seuss is showing how children and adults, burdened within the confines of a traditional world (not, say, down in Whoville or the nonsensical world of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish), where they have to deal with parents, siblings, time confines, and money restrictions, can easy make life more complicated for themselves.
Parading across the page twice in What Pet Should I Get? is the phrase, in all caps: MAKE UP YOUR MIND. The kids, in the end, make a quick decision and happily bring home their new pet. They learned that while it's hard, sometimes you just have to make up your mind or you end up with nothing. But by not telling readers what that choice is, is Seuss forcing us to make our decision too? Or is he letting us run wild with our imaginations about what could possibly be in the basket? Is he freeing us of the confines that the children live within, the angst of an increasingly complicated and pressure-filled world? Like the children, we have the choice to not fret over the decision and live our lives happily no matter the outcome.
And although we do not know what pet they did get, Seuss has been sparking our imaginations for decades with all sorts of imaginative creatures. And if you're asking "what pet should I get?" you couldn't go wrong with any one of these.
The Cat in the Hat
Let's just hope this isn't the pet Kay and her brother decided to bring home. The Cat in the Hat is like that one friend who is always looking to have an "epic" night, and it's fun for awhile, but then you wonder why you ever let them in your house because you just want to relax. Dr. Seuss' most iconic creation, you can't talk about Seussian animals without talking about the literal homewrecker, the Cat in the Hat.
I'm more Team Fish here, though.
Mack the Turtle
Forget the entitled, mean-spirited Yertle, the much better pet would be Mack from the bottom of the stack. Mack shook the whole power structure in the pond one day, literally tossing Yertle from his throne made of his underlings. Mack the Turtle would be an excellent pal in your home — if you can deal with the occasional burp.
Simply put: Horton is a sweetheart. He always taught us to be looking out for others and to respect those different from you "no matter how small." And Horton always says what he means and means what he says. But if the parents in What Pet Should I Get? wouldn't pay for a tent to house the oversized Yent, I'm not sure how cool they'd be with an elephant in the house.
It's a good pet that's loyal to someone as, well, grinchy as the Grinch. But trusty Max wears those reindeer antlers and pulls his chock-full sleigh like a champ, even though his master is not so nice to him. Actually, can we pull together and figure out how those kids can adopt Max and bring him into a nicer home?
The Lorax speaks for the trees and taught us as kids to be environmentally conscious and care for the world around us. He'd probably be the wisest pet you could ever have in your company, but you might have to deal with him preaching at you and your guests from time to time.
Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose taught us all that it's great to be nice, but don't be a push-over. It's wonderful to stand up for yourself, show your voice, and get what you want. Though a moose is probably a handful of a pet, Thidwick is a happy, respectful guy that would be the kindest pet ever — just hope he's learned his lesson and doesn't keep allowing guests in your home way past goodbye.
A pet that stays strictly in your pocket sounds like exactly the type of pet the uptight parents in What Pet Should I Get? would get behind.
Forget about dogs, cats, turtles, and even elephants. If you really want to make life interesting you'd bring a Fizza-ma-Wizza-ma-Dill home as a pet, the coup de grâce of the imaginary animals in If I Ran the Zoo. The Fizza-ma-Wizza-ma-Dill is "the world's biggest bird from the island of Gwark, who eats only pine trees, and spits out the bark." Kay and her brother's parents are going to have an aneurysm.