Few children’s books are as ingrained into American pop culture as those of Dr. Seuss. Time and time again, Dr. Seuss created characters like The Grinch, Horton and The Cat In The Hat, all of whom are recognized by generations of children. As his books are still big sellers, and there has been a slew of computer-animated films to update his tales for a new audience, Dr. Seuss’ reputation is likely to endure well into the future.
Not every Dr. Seuss book is a classic, however. For every Cat In The Hat, there’s a Seven Lady Godivas that only the most committed Dr. Seuss collectors know the name of. The aforementioned book, with the full title of The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History’s Barest Family, is unknown, not because the tale is any less memorable than other Dr. Seuss books, but because it features seven female leads who appear nude throughout the majority of the book — a little bit too edgy for a children’s author today, much less in 1939.
Dr. Seuss was so passionate about bringing The Seven LadyGodivas to life that he made it one of his key stipulations when he traded publishing houses from Vanguard to Random House, reported Brain Pickings. Dr. Seuss was inspired by the classic heroine Lady Godiva, but as he says in the introduction, he feels her reputation is somewhat unjustly sexualized.
“History has treated no name so shabbily as it has the name Godiva. Today the name Godiva brings to mind a shameful picture — a big, blond nude trotting around the town on a horse… There was not one; there were Seven Lady Godivas, and their nakedness actually was not a piece of shame… So far as Peeping Tom is concerned, he never peeped. “Peeping” was merely the old family name.”
Dr. Seuss’ passion for cleansing the Godiva family name didn’t’ click with readers, and only about 2,500 copies were sold. Now a collector’s item, the book routinely sells for $200 or more.
Not all of Dr. Seuss’ lesser known work was a flop though. One of his last books, You’re Only Old Once, was a New York Times bestseller for more than a year. Written with an adult audience in mind like Godiva, Dr. Seuss reflected on what his experience of aging and spending a length of time in the hospital was like. Of course, that’s not something that translates well to CGI kids’ movies like The Lorax, so this one has also faded a bit in recognition.
Dr. Seuss’ political drawings during the Second World War were also a slightly controversial part of his legacy. Today, Reason published an article reminding folks who were celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday yesterday of some of the drawings he created during World War II in which he negatively depicted Japanese characters. Dr. Seuss, known for his progressive views, later apologized for being over-zealous during the war and vilifying the Japanese in his artwork.. In fact, Horton Hears A Who is often interpreted as Dr. Seuss’ way of asking for forgiveness for the act.
Do you have a favorite forgotten Dr. Seuss title, adult or not?
[Images via USPS, Amazon.com and Tofugu]