BY LORI PANKONIN
Did you join others from across the country to celebrate Ted Geisel’s birthday earlier this month? Who’s Ted Geisel?
How about Dr. Seuss? Does that sound more familiar? Aw yes. Who hasn’t heard of Dr. Seuss, the creator of popular children’s books with a rather unique and quirky twist?
March 2, his birthday, is officially Read Across America Day when elementary schools across the country celebrate the joy of reading.
Interestingly enough, Theodor Seuss Geisel got into some trouble during his senior year at the ivy league Dartmouth College in 1925. Ten students were caught drinking in his room. The dean put them all on probation and stripped Geisel of his editorship of the college’s humor magazine. Geisel continued to publish cartoons under aliases. Seuss, his middle name and his mother’s maiden name, was one of those choices.
During graduate school at Oxford, a classmate noticed that Ted did more doodling than note taking during lectures. Helen, who would eventually become his wife, commented on his great flying cow and said he was crazy to think he wanted to be a professor when what he obviously enjoyed was drawing.
He agreed and quit school. He used interesting characters in popular ad campaigns, was a magazine cartoonist and eventually wrote and illustrated children’s books. He started identifying himself as Dr. Theophrastus Seuss, eventually shortened to Dr. Seuss. Americans pronounce the name Soose rather than the original Zoice.
An invitation to a recent baby shower suggested bringing a favorite children’s book. When selecting a gift from the registry, I also ordered the Dr. Seuss ABC book. It arrived in a smaller board book form.
Slipping back several years, I began to read, “BIG A, little a, what begins with A? Aunt Annie’s alligator.....A...a...A.”
Continuing on with a spark of delight, I came to “BIG D, little d, what begins with D? Doughnuts and a duck-dog. D..d..D.”
Wait! What happened to David Donald Doo? Memory found me expecting to read, “BIG D, little d David Donald Doo. Dreamed a dozen doughnuts and a duck-dog, too.”
I touched base with my daughters expressing my frustration. What happened to David Donald Doo?
Brooke suggested maybe David Donald Doo sued. Did the name have to be removed? Was it a gender issue that made it politically incorrect?
Reading on found other changes.
“Painting Pink Pajamas, Policeman in a Pail. Peter Pepper’s puppy. And now Papa’s in the pail” became “Painting some pajamas pink. P...p...P.”
“BIG V, little v Vera Violet Vinn, is very, very, very awful on her violin.” Revised edition—“BIG V, little v, what begins with V? Verna Vera Vin and her violet violin.” They changed her name?
No. No. It just wasn’t the same.
Evidently the shortened version was necessary to fit on smaller pages. That didn’t even hold true as the words could have fit in proportion.
Dr. Seuss died in 1991 and he published his ABC book in 1963. How disgraceful that someone decided his work should be changed. After all, it was his work, not that of the newer generation.
Okay. Reality hit me that there was no need to get in a dither. What starts out as an author’s writing gets influenced and changed by editors all the time. Look how many translations and different interpretations of the Bible exist.
But still. Dr. Seuss is Dr. Seuss. I can feel the setting decades past with my daughters sitting beside me as we chanted, “Vera Violet Vinn is very, very, very awful on her violin.” Youngsters and their parents today will miss out on some of the pizzazz and they won’t even know it.
I definitely will not be buying any more abridged Dr. Seuss books. David Donald Doo is part of our family connection.
LORI PANKONIN is co-publisher of Johnson Publications newspapers in Imperial, Wauneta and Grant, and part-owner of the Holyoke Enterprise in Holyoke, Colo. E-mail: