Three remarkable letters from Dr. Seuss, one ALS and two TLSs, all written to the wife of a Texas doctor during the Spring and Summer of 1972. First, an ALS signed in red artist’s pencil, “Dr. S.,” one page, 7.25 x 10.5, Dr. Seuss letterhead, dated May 18, 1972. In the upper left of the page, Seuss has drawn a pencil, ink, and crayon sketch of the Cat in the Hat wearing a surgical mask and cap. Seuss writes, in full: “Your amazing box of unexpected goodies arrived just an hour ago! You’d be surprised how you’ve changed the appearance of the cat-in-the-hat, who is now in surgery, wearing both appurtenances. You’d also be surprised to see how much happier my studio looks with precious cat, Anna, perched high on the book case radiating warmth (and a slight confusion on being suddenly in a new home). The only present I haven’t yet sampled is the tape recording. And for two silly reasons: 1. My recorder is away being fixed. 2. In twenty minutes I’m rushing out of here to catch a plane for Hollywood, for a week’s work on my new T.V. Special…thence to Yugoslavia to show my last two pictured behind the iron curtain. Then onward, east. So, I’ll have to forgo the pleasure of the tape until I return…some time in August. Honestly, I don’t know why you’re so generous and so good to me! Thank you! (And I’d thank you in a thousand more words if I didn’t have to finish my last minute packing.) You’re truly lovely people!”
Second, a TLS, signed “Dr. Seuss,” two pages, 8.5 x 11, Beginner Books letterhead, dated August 28, 1972. Seuss responds to an inquiry about his stories being used more to teach. In part: “I agree with you entirely about the great importance of Phonics in teaching kids to read…And the inclusion of two ‘Instructions to Parents’ pages could also help any parent who is trying to teach his child to read and recognize punctuation marks. However, more than ten years ago, when Beginner Books was founded, the founders went through a long soul-searching period, during which we established our publishing philosophy. We discussed…Just how far should we get involved with actual teaching? And we finally came to the following conclusion: We should not involve ourselves with teaching at all. Rightly or wrongly, we decided not to teach, but rather to supplement the work of teachers. Since then, we feel that Beginner Books has served its purpose of giving kids books that kids want to read and will enjoy reading, after the basics of reading have been taught to them by others.”
The third letter is a short TLS, signed “T. S. Geisel,” one page, 7 x 10, Dr. Seuss letterhead, dated April 25, 1972, sending thanks for the woman’s first letter. The ALS is in fine condition, with signature a bit cramped due to space. The remaining two letters show a bit more wear, with toned front page to longer TLS, staple holes to both pages, and creasing through signature of last letter, as well as some scattered toning, otherwise fine condition. Each of Seuss’s letters are accompanied by their original mailing envelopes, and by photocopies of the woman’s correspondence with Seuss, in which Mrs. Turllols praises the author’s work, calling his books “Unequaled and oustandingly successful because” they “motivate and captivate—not only the children—but also—the parents!” She also details “Instructions to Parents,” in which she spells out the phonetic process of reading, instructing, “Teach your child that just as ‘animals talk,’ for example, a cat says ‘Meow,’ so do the Alphabet letters talk.” The letters sing of the mission she shares with Seuss, which is to “try to help children learn how to read well.”
Featuring a one-of-a-kind sketch of Seuss’ beloved Cat in the Hat, tailored to recipients “Mrs. Dr. T. and Dr. T.,” the author’s first letter makes mention of him “rushing out of here to catch a plane for Hollywood, for a week’s work on my new T.V. Special.” His favorite cat had already premiered in his own animated television special, The Cat in the Hat, in March of 1971, and Seuss was jet-setting to LA to oversee the production of the follow-up, Dr. Seuss on the Loose, which aired on October 15, 1972. The show was hosted by The Cat in the Hat, featuring animated adaptations of other Seuss children’s stories, including The Sneetches, The Zax, and Green Eggs and Ham.
Busy bringing the Cat in the Hat to life for television, Seuss was also contentedly watching the rise of Beginner Books. Their decision not to teach, but rather create supplemental tools for teachers, proved even more valuable; in 1954, Life magazine published an article regarding the illiteracy of school children, and compiled a list of 348 words that were deemed significant for first-graders to comprehend. They challenged Geisel to write a book using 250 of the words listed, and the result was the children’s classic, The Cat in the Hat. Coupled with an unparalleled imaginative element, bold colors, and verse rhythms, Geisel hand-delivered the literary world to young children, creating generations upon generations of avid readers. These letters create a vivid picture of the ever-evolving career and journey of a visionary, from his jump to television to his dedication to providing a vast library of imagination and literary stepping stones to an adolescent population in need. An exemplary collection brimming with insight and energy.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.