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Could Dr. Seuss be a Socialist?


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Initial post: Oct 26, 2007 12:46:23 PM PDT
Ok, so I say to my 2-year old daughter last night, "Let's read a book or two before you go to bed," like a good mamma is supposed to do, right? Her face lights up and she shouts, "10 Apples! 10 Apples!" She was referring to Dr. Seuss's 10 Apples Up on Top. Now, normally I like Dr. Seuss's books. In fact, his are among my favorite childrens' books. However, 10 Apples Up on Top is not his best work; it's a bit monotonous. So, I'm less than thrilled when my daughter suggests this one. But it teaches simple words and counting-it's good for that-, so I cave and say, "Alright."

So, here we are reading this book where 3 animals-a dog, a tiger, and a lion-compete by seeing how many apples they can stack on their heads. "Look see, I can do three, I can put three on top, you see." Or something like that. And then the next animal stacks four apples, then five and so on until they finally have ten apples on top. All of this is fine. We are counting and learning about competition.

Then a group of bears who pick up mops and start swatting at the apple stacks on the animals' heads. The book is not explicit about why, but one can assume from the pictures that perhaps the dog, tiger, and lion stole the apples from the bears' refridgerator. "Oh no, they have mops, they'll knock our apples from the top, this all must stop..." I'm paraphrasing because I don't have the book sitting next to me now. But you get the picture. So the bears (there are about 8 of them) chase the dog, tiger and lion around swatting at the apples barely balancing on their heads and chase them down a hill until at last, the whole pack runs into a huge cart of a million apples being pulled by an old guy and his mule. Everything explodes, and then all of them put 10 apples on their heads - the bears, too! And everyone celebrate. "We all can have 10 apples on top," is the gist.

My daughter is laughing, which makes me happy, but I'm sitting there perplexed. I cannot help but wonder what the message is supposed to be here. Compete to be the best at something, steal and destroy others' livelihood to get it, then share your booty with everyone, so all have equal shares?

What about the old guy with the mule? How long did it take for him to harvest all those apples? Where was he going with them? How will he feed his family and his mule now? Dr. Seuss forgets to mention that, doesn't he? I don't get it. Is this some sort of subliminal message to my child that socialism is ok? Is Dr. Seuss a pen name for Karl Marx?

Well, that's it. I'm going to write my own version of this story..... Ok, so I probably won't write my own version, but I will stuff this book to the back of my daughter's book shelf and hope she forgets about it.

Jennifer Bouani
Award Winning Author of Tyler and His Solve-a-matic Machine

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2007 4:29:29 PM PDT
are you out of your mind - do you see a commie under every bed - it's a cute story and that's all it is...

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2007 5:08:01 PM PDT
I think she's being a little facetious Bernard, and also looking for an excuse to not read Dr. Seuss's worst book again...

;)

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2007 6:01:46 PM PDT
E. Hanks says:
Dr. Seuss didn't even write that book, Theo. Lesieg did and he is clearly not as good an author as the good Doctor. Reading to/with your children should one of life's great pleasures. Pitch or donate the book and try Horton Hears a Who.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2007 6:11:05 PM PDT
T. MCGREGOR says:
If you've ever seen Dr. Seuss' lovely mansion overlooking the sea in LaJolla, California, you'd never accuse him of being a socialist. I'd say he's political leanings were very likley Democrat-Left (read the "Lorax" as an example of capitalism run amok). I also doubt that Dr. Seuss always intended to make a political statement (see "Green Eggs & Ham"), but may have done so now and then (see underlying racial diversity commentary in "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish"). I think you're right about the apple cart thing: what about that poor farmer who worked to get those apples? Or maybe this is just a crazy way to teach children to share. Nothing wrong in that. If you're really worried about leftist politics, keep your kid away from the Wizard of Oz... it was written as a communist manifesto!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 26, 2007 8:01:14 PM PDT
Mrs. Case says:
FYI- Theo LeSeig is one of Theodore Geisel's (aka Dr. Seuss's) pen names. "Leseig" is "Geisel" spelled backward. He wrote 13 books under this pen name and even one under the name "Rosetta Stone". You can see a list of all his books under their respective pen names here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Seuss

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2007 10:24:23 AM PDT
"If you're really worried about leftist politics, keep your kid away from the Wizard of Oz... it was written as a communist manifesto!"

Can you show me to a website that discusses this? Seems interesting.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2007 2:07:35 PM PDT
Joyce says:
I think it's rather amazing that two great children's writers (Theodor Seuss Geisel and Frank Baum) are being held circumspect by a few individuals with absolutley no proof of their accusations. If you have objective proof why not share it with us?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2007 3:53:12 PM PDT
Why is it an "accusation" that Ted Geisel wrote his books with thoughts about how people live together in mind? I don't think there's any question that Theodore Geisel had deep concerns about his contemporary society (the nuclear arms race, the commercialization of everything, and environmental destruction especially) at the end of his life and wrote his books in response to that - see the biography of him that recently aired on PBS. He also went through a great deal of pain, especially the suicide of his wife. Like any great artist, his writing reflected his experience and beliefs. There is no other sensible way to understand "Horton Hears A Who" the "Butter Battle Book," "The Lorax", "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" etc. And I believe he said as much at the time, though I can't cite the quotes.

But why is that a bad thing? Isn't this what books are for, is for people to try to make sense of their world through story?

Possibly also lso true for Frank Baum. The allegorical meanings of The Wizard of Oz have subject of fierce debate - is it or is it not an allegory for the Populist movement and the 1896 presidential campaign of William Jennings Bryan whose "Cross of Gold" speech seems to resonate with yellow brick roads and the golden city of Oz in more ways than I'm going to go into here. Rather than try to lead you through the thicket I'll just point you to one internet source that seems pretty solid to me and encourage you to look up more if your'e interested:

http://www.halcyon.com/piglet/Populism.htm

SO I say again, what is wrong with that? Do you read just for "entertainment?" Most authors of any substance don't write books for us or for children to "amuse" us. They write because they have a story to tell. Every story invariably has a point of view because it is about somebody trying to understand their world - how people act, how they feel, why we do the things we do - and wanting to put that in a form that resonates for others.

Please note that with neither Geisel nor Baum does it make any intellectual sense to speak of them as "communist." People with populist ideals, certainly with Baum. Or with Geisel someone with grave doubts about the uses certain interests put power to, or the modern propaganda industry, or capitalism run amok. But except for using communist as an unthinking curse word, that does not make one a communist. Not everyone who thinks unfettered capitalism is not the One True Religion believes that everything should be collectivized and ruled by a dictatorship of the proletariat.

Do you read only books that confirm your already-existing point of view? Is that what you want to provide for your child? Is that what you want your child to learn to do? Instead, can't we read books and explore what we think they mean and how we react to them?

Please note that if you're determined to censor your children's books based on whether their notions fit with capitalist dogma you're pretty much going to be stuck with "The Little Engine that Could" and Lynne Cheney. Most of the rest of children's literature thinks that cooperation is at least as valuable as competition. As do children in general, until they get that notion stomped out of them by adults.

And you sure better be careful about sharing the New Testament with your child! Jesus was certainly distorting market forces when he turned the water into wine or fed people with the loaves and fishes! Not to mention his stifling of free trade when he threw the moneychangers out of the temple!

I'm obviously becoming a little sarcastic and I apologize for that. But children's literature at its best is all about helping young children understand (and hopefully love) this rather amazing world. Unless you think that thinking itself is dangerous, then I urge you to

I have raised three sons and our house is overflowing with books for people of all ages! And books of all kinds! And our lives are the richer for it.

(A little side-note. It sounds like some of you have been reading Seuss books for years and enjoying them, not just for the rhythm and rhyme but also for how they leave you feeling. If so, then I suggest that perhaps there's a part of youe motionally that resonates with his messages. Maybe if you let your heart speak to how people can and should live together rather than the dogma of your head you might reach some different conclusions about Seuss, and about life...

Jonathan Fribley
St. Cloud, MN

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2007 5:14:39 PM PDT
MB says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2007 5:17:01 PM PDT
MB says:
Wha?
Does having a conscience make you a socialist?
Can you be a capitalist and also be reluctant to abuse others in order to get ahead?
Can you turn off Bill O'Reilly and take some deep breaths?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2007 5:48:30 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2007 6:02:21 PM PDT
thisisgibbie says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2007 6:26:49 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 27, 2007 6:29:19 PM PDT
Joyce says:
Jonahan,

Wow! Unbelievable where you took my simple statement asking certain posters who accuse writers of having a certain position to supply proof when making such accusations. While you obviosly have certain views, and DO supply sources, I'll check them out. However, why you go off on a bunch of other tangents, I'm not sure.
By the way, none of the assumptions--or implied assumptions--you make apply to me. Are you talking to someone else, or merely venting?

While I'm a published author of over 80 books for children and adults, with a couple of bestsellers to my credit, I don't consider myself in the league of Baum or Seuss. I'm a successful grunt writer. However, be assured that while writers bring their life experience to the writing of any book, it's not anywhere as flagrant as you indicate. Writers write under contract for publishers, and unless a writer satisfies the wants and needs of publishers, s/he won't get published --- especially when it comes to books for children.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2007 6:42:39 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2007 8:01:53 PM PDT
Steven,
Although I do write to the needs of my publishers in the world of journalism, I didn't like your statement about children's writers having to write to the wants and needs of publishers. I think the great authors write the books they want to read, the books that they can't find on the shelf. I don't agree with taking publishers into consideration when following a vision, and I doubt if Dr. Seuss did, at least before his initial success. His work would not have been so original if he had worried about anything else but his vision. If a publisher can't see the vision, then the visionary has to take matters into his own hands. I myself didn't bother with a traditional publisher because I read that most won't accept a debut children's author if he refuses to use any other artist besides the one he's already coupled himself with. And besides the amount of money the trads spend marketing a new author is no more than I'll be able to spend myself over the next year.

But when you take matters into your own hands then you have to market too, which means you have to fill out your Amazon profile, get a picture up, and make sure that your Bibliography is functioning.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2007 9:28:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 27, 2007 9:30:38 PM PDT
Joyce says:
J. Lyon Layden,

No disrespect meant, but I think you're somewhat naive when it comes to knowledge of getting a book published by a traditional publishing house. And when it comes to self-publishing, there's far more involved than you indicate.

As for self-publishing, of which I'm admittedly not a fan for a slew of reasons, you say that because you read that most traditional publishers won't accept a debut children's author if he refuses any other artist beside the one he's already coupled himself with. While it's true that traditional publishers select the artists of their choice, did it ever occur to you that they do so for a very good reason -- in the overwhelming majority of cases they know a heck of a lot more about what works and doesn't than does the author, as well as how to compliment the written words in the most satisfactory manner, one geared to give the book the best chance to sell well and thereby get its message out into the mainstream. Self-publishing companies couldn't care less who an author wants to use for illustration. One way or the other the self-published writer is going to pay them for everything anyway. That's how they make money. They know that nary a one in 10 thousand self-published books will have any sort of minor success or realize any sort of profit for the writer.

If you have written a really good, obviously neeeded book for which there's a glaring, large audience, I can't imagine why you wouldn't want to at least try and get published by a traditioal publisher. I don't understand why you would forgo this route simply because a traditional publisher might choose an illustrator different from the one you've been working with. After all, if the traditional publisher likes your work you might even delight in their choice of illustrator. Now I'm not saying that getting accepted for publication by a traditional publisher is easy, because it's not. But I do think it's a route one should pursue for at least a couple of years before thinking about self-publishing. The competition is fierce, and the author is guaranteed to receive a host of rejection letters. However, if accepted by a traditional publisher one knows that their work has been reviewed by a score of in-house editors and has stood up to the test. In addition the house has decided to invest a lot of money in the venture. And equally important is that the traditional house will spend time, money, and use their personnel re marketing, publicity, and a whole lot more. You conception that you'll spend as much of you own money over the next year as would a traditional publisher, makes no sense. If the book calls for it, traditional publishers have lots of money to spend on marketing and publicity, to say nothing of their contacts in a variety of other venues (e.g., subsidiary sales-foreign, book cubs, tv, radio, magazines, and much, much more). I suggest to you to re-think your statement: "--that the answer to marketing a self-published book is "...which means you have to fill out you Amazon profile, get a picture up, and make sure that your Bibliography is functioning."

If a self-published author is lucky, he'll sell about 50 books a year through Amazon and other such sites (e.g., Barnes & Noble).

I can understand that you don't like the idea of having to write to the wants and needs of publishers. However, I think you may be a bit naive when it comes to working with a traditional publisher. I'm talking about a publisher approaching an author with a preconceived idea for a children's book. Just an overall idea they have for a book that will appeal to a specific market. They know the "kind" of book they want, and they hope you as the author will be able to deliver it. Well, at this point the author can accept the job, or if he feels as you indicate: "... that he doesn't to write to the wants and needs of publishers,...", he can reject the assignment.

That's quite different from creating your own manuscript and submitting it to a publisher or an agent. A writer who wants to get published by a traditional publisher --- in fact all writers, whether writing for traditional or self-publication --- should know that there's a need and an audience for the book they have in mind. Work on the book shouldn't begin before this is verified. Now the writer, if he feels like you, can choose not to research the needs of diffeent traditonal publishers, as well as the appropriate companies and imprints he wants to submit to. and not research the types of books they publish. The writers can, as you say, "write the books they want to read, the books that they can't find on the shelf." He can also choose to do as you say: ""I don't agree with taking publishers into consideration when following a vision." The writer can write what he wants and send it off to traditional publishers-following their guideline. If he doesn't want to do this he can choose the black hole of self-publishing.

Good luck.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 27, 2007 11:22:33 PM PDT
Yes, of course his politics leaned to the left, as evidenced by The Butter Battle Book, The Lorax, etc... . We need him now more than ever in Bush's Amerikkka. Of course the apples need to be distributed fairly. One million children die of malaria every year while Americans consume and waste ever more. As if you can even begin to call your political system a democracy when individuals are allowed to possess billions of dollars? Wealth is power.. without distributing it equitably there is no democracy. Jail the rich, free the poor. Out of the bedroom and into the boardroom.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2007 7:07:48 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 28, 2007 8:05:53 AM PDT
"As for self-publishing, of which I'm admittedly not a fan for a slew of reasons, you say that because you read that most traditional publishers won't accept a debut children's author if he refuses any other artist beside the one he's already coupled himself with. While it's true that traditional publishers select the artists of their choice, did it ever occur to you that they do so for a very good reason -- in the overwhelming majority of cases they know a heck of a lot more about what works and doesn't than does the author, as well as how to compliment the written words in the most satisfactory manner, one geared to give the book the best chance to sell well and thereby get its message out into the mainstream. "

It occurred to me that they think they know. But the truth is that most children's books nowadays have very boring illustrations. I like my unknown artist's pictures way better than any children's book that I've seen published in the last ten years, and pretty much any child I've shown my book to has exclaimed something to the effect of "Wow awesome pictures!"
I think that children are starving for really imaginative artwork in their books, and that the traditional publishers are not giving it to them.

And I think you're wrong about why publishers don't want debut authors to use their own illustrators. They have a rule not to use debut authors with debut illustrators, and vice versa, because they are afraid to take a total risk. Someone has to have a readership, and then they still won't put forth much in the way of marketing.

I knew that if I were able to show a traditional publisher the finished manuscript with color pictures included, that I could get a deal. Unfortunately I could not find one that would accept a manuscript with illustrations provided.

Ever since I received "The Hobbit" coffee table book with color illustrations from the animated movie at the age of 8 I have been searching for a children's chapter book that would be as fascinating and magical as that one was for children, and I haven't found one yet. So I wrote one and had it illustrated equally well. I don't think a traditional publisher's artist could have done that for me.

Unfortunately, I was not able to do it in color because of the unit price so I had to do it like Brian Selznick's book. The next step is proving the audience to a traditional press so that I can get the color added and retain a decent price.

"Self-publishing companies couldn't care less who an author wants to use for illustration. One way or the other the self-published writer is going to pay them for everything anyway."

Yes- I paid a whopping $100 to get my children's book published. The fact that I get 15-35% royalties instead of 10% made up for that in the first 50 sales.

" That's how they make money. They know that nary a one in 10 thousand self-published books will have any sort of minor success or realize any sort of profit for the writer. "

And yet only a handful of traditional published titles have a higher average Amazon sales rank than my own.

"If you have written a really good, obviously neeeded book for which there's a glaring, large audience, I can't imagine why you wouldn't want to at least try and get published by a traditioal publisher."

Because they would get some crappy well-known artist to illustrate it when I have the best one alive today right down the street who shares my vision and cares about what I write. Once I've proven to them that I was right, they will come knocking. And 6 months of waiting is too long. Especially with the audacity of "no Simultaneous Manuscripts"- if the first one doesn't see your book's worth, you wait ANOTHER 6 months, and so on. Jim C. Hines, author of the bestselling "Goblin Wars," tried for 12 years before he got published. In 12 years I could sell enough cabinets to fund my own publishing company.

By the time I got it published I would have grown alot older and I already had a local audience that was willing to purchase my book NOW.

" I don't understand why you would forgo this route simply because a traditional publisher might choose an illustrator different from the one you've been working with. "

Also my illustrator helped with the plot. I think this is how it should be. The illustrator should be a integral part of the creation process, not an afterthought.

"After all, if the traditional publisher likes your work you might even delight in their choice of illustrator."

And backstab the perfectly talented artist who helped me to write it?

" Now I'm not saying that getting accepted for publication by a traditional publisher is easy, because it's not. But I do think it's a route one should pursue for at least a couple of years before thinking about self-publishing."

I've been traditionally published by loads of national and international magazines so I didn't feel the need to prove anything to anyone.

"The competition is fierce, and the author is guaranteed to receive a host of rejection letters. However, if accepted by a traditional publisher one knows that their work has been reviewed by a score of in-house editors and has stood up to the test."

Why are these editors more of an authority than myself, a professional book and music reviewer with 16 years experience writing professionally? Why are they more of an authority than my college professor who is an author, a creative writing teacher, and who edited my work?

" In addition the house has decided to invest a lot of money in the venture."

And yet they usually don't spend much money on new authors. They kind of throw them in the water and hope they swim with almost 0 marketing.

" And equally important is that the traditional house will spend time, money, and use their personnel re marketing, publicity, and a whole lot more."

I don't agree. I see traditional books not getting marketed at all, and if they don't sell the first year they are out of print the next. PODs will stay on the market forever as long as you pay your $15 per year hosting fee.

" You conception that you'll spend as much of you own money over the next year as would a traditional publisher, makes no sense. If the book calls for it, traditional publishers have lots of money to spend on marketing and publicity, to say nothing of their contacts in a variety of other venues (e.g., subsidiary sales-foreign, book cubs, tv, radio, magazines, and much, much more)."

You mean they spend alot of money on books like Harry Potter. I see very little marketing for new books, and I see alot of great books that are quickly out of print.

"If a self-published author is lucky, he'll sell about 50 books a year through Amazon and other such sites (e.g., Barnes & Noble). "

I have already sold over 30 via online sales and it's only been half a year.

"I can understand that you don't like the idea of having to write to the wants and needs of publishers. However, I think you may be a bit naive when it comes to working with a traditional publisher. I'm talking about a publisher approaching an author with a preconceived idea for a children's book. Just an overall idea they have for a book that will appeal to a specific market. They know the "kind" of book they want, and they hope you as the author will be able to deliver it. Well, at this point the author can accept the job, or if he feels as you indicate: "... that he doesn't to write to the wants and needs of publishers,...", he can reject the assignment."

Well yes I have no experience in that. But it sounds like journalism to me. Journalism is great side money and has fringe benefits, but my real love is writing fiction purely of my own volition.

"That's quite different from creating your own manuscript and submitting it to a publisher or an agent. A writer who wants to get published by a traditional publisher --- in fact all writers, whether writing for traditional or self-publication --- should know that there's a need and an audience for the book they have in mind. Work on the book shouldn't begin before this is verified."

I think Tolkien would disagree with you there. The Hobbit was written on a whim, and The Lord of the Rings was the exact opposite of what his publisher asked him for. It was "unmarketable" as far as trad publishers are concerned. They had to break it into three books and they STILL thought it was a risk.

" Now the writer, if he feels like you, can choose not to research the needs of diffeent traditonal publishers, as well as the appropriate companies and imprints he wants to submit to. and not research the types of books they publish. The writers can, as you say, "write the books they want to read, the books that they can't find on the shelf." He can also choose to do as you say: ""I don't agree with taking publishers into consideration when following a vision." The writer can write what he wants and send it off to traditional publishers-following their guideline. If he doesn't want to do this he can choose the black hole of self-publishing."

Yep Eragon is in a black hole alright.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2007 7:42:57 AM PDT
"Yes, of course his politics leaned to the left, as evidenced by The Butter Battle Book, The Lorax, etc... . We need him now more than ever in Bush's Amerikkka. Of course the apples need to be distributed fairly. One million children die of malaria every year while Americans consume and waste ever more. As if you can even begin to call your political system a democracy when individuals are allowed to possess billions of dollars? Wealth is power.. without distributing it equitably there is no democracy. Jail the rich, free the poor. Out of the bedroom and into the boardroom."

Then there should be no reward for hard work and effort? Why would anyone work then?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2007 9:29:29 AM PDT
Joyce says:
J. Lyon,

Rather than pick apart your post, I'll merely say that our thinking is far apart.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2007 9:55:09 AM PDT
M. Tennessen says:
let me remind everyone that this thread began with a incorrect assertation that a relentless drive to win, step-over-everyone to get to the top attitude is somehow related to socialism. Its not. That attitude is often attributed to unrepentant believers in absolute unfettered free markets. Much like the author of that original post. Who also believes that this unfettered global capitalism is the key to our future. Let me also just make some casual mention of the recent toy recalls, made in overseas factories on cheap labor by US companies. Let me also say that "blood diamonds" look like all other diamonds when they're in a setting. Just saying...

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2007 1:02:45 PM PDT
hyllaeria says:
who gives a damn?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2007 1:39:42 PM PDT
hyllaeria says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 29, 2007 6:22:39 AM PDT
M. Tennessen says:
are you serious? what are you, 12?
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Initial post:  Oct 26, 2007
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