Never-before-seen sketches of Dr. Seuss will serve as inspiration for a new series of children’s books to be written and illustrated by a diverse group of up-and-coming artists, the company overseeing the author’s estate announced on Wednesday.
The line of books will be published as Seuss Studios, a new project from Dr. Seuss Enterprises that will release at least two original books per year starting in 2023, a company spokeswoman said in a statement.
Although the list of authors and illustrators who will work on the books is still being finalized, the company said they will come from diverse backgrounds and include people of color.
The announcement comes a year after Dr. Seuss Enterprises said six books written by Theodor Seuss Geisel under the pen name Dr. Seuss would no longer be published due to their use of images that portray people “in a hurtful and false way”.
In “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”, for example, a character described as “a Chinaman” has eye lines, wears a pointed hat, and carries chopsticks and a bowl of rice. Two characters from “If I Ran the Zoo” hail from the “African island of Yerka” and are depicted as bare-chested, shoeless, ape-like monkeys.
Susan Brandt, president and CEO of Dr. Seuss Enterprises, said in a statement that the new venture “will help us ensure that the images of Dr. Seuss endure in the best way possible – and in new ways – for future generations.” readers”.
The legacy of Dr Seuss, who died in 1991 and entertained millions of children around the world with whimsical tales often tied to moral lessons, has come under scrutiny in recent years. The decision to pull the six titles from circulation received breathless coverage on cable news and prompted complaints about “cancel culture” from prominent conservatives.
Others, however, welcomed the estate’s decision to stop selling some of Dr. Seuss’ work.
“I applauded the decision to do this and take the hurtful stuff off the market,” Lynda Claassen, director of special collections at the University of California, San Diego, said Wednesday.
University houses the Dr. Seuss collection — hundreds of unpublished sketches which are kept in an archive section of the school library.
Behind locked doors and inside a room with its own security system, there are about 20 large steel drawers, each containing never-before-seen sketches of Dr. Seuss which are stored in special folders and pockets, a said Ms. Claassen.
There are about 750 of these sketches. Ms Claassen said she and Ms Brandt and her team often scour the drawers for inspiration and project ideas. Some of the sketches will serve as the seed for a new book idea for promising artists who will be approached for the project.
One of the never-before-seen illustrations released on Wednesday shows three colorful, smiling hummingbirds. The other is a mouse-like creature with fuzzy, elongated ears.
“You can tell a lot of them were book ideas because there were storyboards,” Ms. Claassen said.
But Dr. Seuss was also an “inveterate draftsman,” she said, “so there’s a lot of what I would call miscellaneous drawings that weren’t meant for the books.”
When the new books are published, they will include Dr. Seuss’ original sketch and a note from the artists explaining how they were inspired by it.
Anjali Adukia, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, who has researched racial disparities in children’s bookssaid Wednesday that she was “excited to see the narratives they create, bringing their own lived experiences and reflecting them through their work.”
Mallory Loehr, executive vice president and publisher of Random House Books for Young Readers, will oversee the editorial direction of the new books. She said in a statement that the voices of new authors and illustrators “will shine on every page, cover to cover – with a glimmer of Dr. Seuss’s imagination hidden in every book.”
Philip Nel, a Kansas State University children’s literature researcher and author of “Dr. Seuss: American Icon,” said Wednesday that he was “pleased to see Dr. Seuss Enterprises take a step beyond the product recall. from last year”.
“I hope this first step is the first in a long series,” he said.