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Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel Hardcover – October 1, 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Before Yertle, before the Cat in the Hat, before Little Cindy-Lou Who (but after Mulberry Street), Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) made his living as a political cartoonist for New York newspaper PM. Seuss drew over 400 cartoons in just under two years for the paper, reflecting the daily's New Deal liberal slant. Starting in early 1941, when PM advocated American involvement in World War II, Seuss savaged the fascists with cunning caricatures. He also turned his pen against America's internal enemies--isolationists, hoarders, complainers, anti-Semites, and anti-black racists--and urged Americans to work together to win the war. The cartoons are often funny, peopled with bowler-hatted "everymen" and what author Art Spiegelman calls "Seussian fauna" in his preface. They are also often very disturbing--Seuss draws brutally racist images of the Japanese and even attacks Japanese Americans on numerous occasions. Perhaps most disturbing is the realization that Seuss was just reflecting the wartime zeitgeist.

Dr. Seuss Goes to War marks the first time most of these illustrations have appeared in print since they were first published. Richard H. Minear's introduction and explanatory chapters contextualize the 200 editorial cartoons (some of whose nuances might otherwise be lost on the modern reader). Those who grew up on Seuss will enjoy early glimpses of his later work; history buffs will enjoy this new--if playful and contorted--angle on World War II. --Sunny Delaney

From Library Journal

Few fans of Dr. Seuss's whimsy are likely to be aware that before authoring The Cat in the Hat Theodor Seuss Geisel penned editorial cartoons for the New York daily PM. This new collection presents approximately half the newspaper cartoons that Geisel drafted for the pro-New Deal paper from the start of 1941 (when his main targets were the isolationists who opposed U.S. intervention in European and Asian affairs) until 1943 (when he accepted a commission in the U.S. Army). Minear (history, Univ. of Massachusetts) has done a fine job of selecting, arranging in thematic order, and providing historical commentary for these cartoons, which are full of Geisel's expected visual wit; seeing the early development of his eccentric animal menagerie is a special treat. As Art Spiegelman notes in his introduction, Geisel's Uncle Sam seems to have been practice for what would become the Cat in the Hat. "The prototype for the cat's famous headgear is actually...Uncle Sam's red-and-white-striped top hat! The Cat in the Hat is America!" writes Spiegelman. Recommended for larger libraries.AKent Worcester, Marymount Manhattan Coll., New York
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press; 1st Printing edition (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156584565X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565845657
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 9.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Collectors of Dr. Seuss books will definitely want this volume. I found it eerie to see creatures which later appeared in books like ~Horton Hears a Who~, ~How the Grinch Stole Christmas~, and other favorite books of my childhood turning up in caricatures of Axis powers, racists, war profiteers, and the Fifth Column. But, upon reflection, I must admit that these cartoons mark the origins of the themes of community awareness and social consciousness that distinguish his comedic later works. I would not call this a book to be had on every shelf, but if you grew up with Dr. Seuss and still sneak peeks at those slender volumes up in your attic (or in the clutches of your own children and grandchildren), you will find yourself fascinated by the obvious comparisons.
The book includes explanatory commentary by Richard H. Minear and a chronology of the cartoons.
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Format: Hardcover
I was quite surprised when I discovered this book of over 200 (out of 400 he drew) political cartoons by Dr. Seuss (who became a Doctor only by honorary degree years later, even though he called himself Dr. Seuss at this time). I did not realize that he had been a major producer of propaganda in favor of intervention in World War II and later in favor of winning the war. What is even more surprising is to look at the cartoons and see familiar-looking fish, cats and turtles who show up in all of the most beloved children's stories by Dr. Seuss. Clearly, World War II was essential training for the pro-community, pro-progressiveness stories that three generations have now grown up with.
Dr. Seuss was so enraged by Italian pro-fascist propaganda that he sought a role in political cartooning with P.M., a New Deal liberal daily newspaper in New York. The newspaper did not carry advertising, and cost much more than other papers. As a result, it had a daily circulation of only 150,000. After two years, he volunteered for the service at age 38 and took a job in the Army signal corps creating propaganda movies (some of which won him Oscars).
Most of these cartoons would be ones that anyone would be proud to have drawn, for both their humor and the targeting of those who favored dictatorships and complacency about fascism. On the other hand, Dr. Seuss did a few that are certainly racist (although generally he was antiracist, opposing the ill treatment of blacks and Jews). The focus of his racism were Japanese (lots of slanted-eyes drawings of evil plotting) and Japanese-Americans (one cartoon shows Japanese-Americans picking up explosives after Pearl Harbor).
The book is also interesting for capturing the debates of those years in a fresh and visual way.
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Format: Hardcover
I teach World History in high school and I love this book. I would agree with a previous reviewer that for the person who is just picking this book up to read, the book would be improved by being presented chronologically. However, I found this book to be invaluable when presenting the propaganda of World War II to students. They have a natural love of Dr. Seuss and are very interested in the cartoons. Their interest in the cartoons leads to a lively discussion of the content of the cartoons. A must for all teachers of World History, U.S. History or any history of the modern era.
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Format: Paperback
Dr. Seuss Goes to War is a fascinating look at the political cartoons of Theodor Geisel, (Dr. Seuss). Seuss was hired to draw political cartoons for the New York newspaper PM in 1941 and remained through 1943. Seuss had already published his first children's book, To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street in 1937 but his other children's works were not created until after WWII.

Two hundred of those roughly four hundred cartoons have found their way into Dr. Seuss Goes to War. Because these cartoons were drawn on a daily basis and reflected contemporary events they provide the reader with a fascinating window through which one can view life in America and the World during the war years.

The book begins with a brief introduction by Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize winning author/illustrator of Maus. Spiegelman notes the eerie resemblance between the figures and animals drawn by Seuss and his later creations such as the Cat in the Hat, Myrtle the Turtle, and Horton.

The cartoons themselves are divided into sections by topic, (the Home Front, Hitler & Nazi Germany, the Rest of the Word, etc.). Each section contains a very well written and thoughtful preface by historian Richard Minear. These explanatory sections are quite helpful in putting the cartoons into the context of the day and providing critical information about some of the then well known figures of the day (Father Coughlin, Pierre Laval and others) that may be unfamiliar to contemporary readers. Minear's commentary is particularly useful because it contains links between the information he provides by reference to the specific page number of a cartoon. The reader's enjoyment and understanding of the cartoon is enhancement by this treatment.
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Format: Hardcover
This collection of Dr. Suess' political cartoons of the WW II era is likely to intirgue both history buffs as well as the fans of all those wildly imaginative kids' books. The cartoons are not chronologically ordered. Rather, they are grouped by themes, with introductory material by Minear preceding each (e.g., "The Home Front," "Hitler and Nazi Germany," "Winning the War"). This may seem a bit chaotic to some, but in another way, it can be beneficial in that it encourages one to make one's own comparisons of cartoon symbolism by paging back and forth.
Minear provides just enough historical backdrop. What I admire is that he respects the reader enough to refrain from making a complete interpretation of the cartoons. He often poses rhetorical questions that suggest multiple motives for Suess. I like that; it leaves me to make up my own mind based on my own knowledge of historical events.
Children familiar with Seuss will have a natural attraction to the cartoons, as many of the forerunners of familar characters appear there. However, they are also likely to ask questions about things they don't understand. For children old enough (and that's a personal call), this can be a wonderful way to introduce them to the history of World War II and the political climate of the times. Suess had a strong anti-isolationist stance, but he also touches upon racism (labor exclusion practices during the war, anti-semitism). He also demonstrates some degree of racism himself, in the depiction of Japanese. True, that was the prevalent attitude of the times, but again, you have an opportunity to open up some deeper discussion with a child or with your own conscience. Teachers may be especially interested in tapping the potential of this book.
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