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July 23, 2015

Readers Horrified To Find Cherished Character Racist, Resistant to Change

LA JOLLA, CA—It’s not easy being green eggs and ham. On the heels of Harper Lee’s newly released Go Set A Watchman, in which quiet hero Atticus Finch is rendered as a curmudgeonly bigot, baby boomers have been struck another blow by the man who helped them learn to read in the first place.

Children’s author Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel wrote a book in the 1960s which has now been discovered in a British library next tosome fragments of a Koran first edition. Both books, loosely translated as “What Pet Should I Get,” are set to be published Tuesday. While both contain rhyming verses and fantastical imagery, only Dr. Seuss resurrected its central character, the iconic Cat in the Hat, and portrayed him as a hardline luddite, begrudging and denigrating segments of society.

“A wall twixt me and Whoville would give me gentle rest.
They’re rapists and they’re crooked.
They do not send their best.”

The accompanying illustrations have already been banned in Denmark.

“I’m convinced this is a very rough draft and was never intended for publication,” said Natalie Lorax, who worked as Geisel’s assistant for many years. “All his books began in this vein, but he eventually streamlined them into something more palatable. The original version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas depicted him in a yarmulke and contained a crucifixion scene.”

In What Pet Should I Get, the Cat in the Hat has an addiction to chewing tobacco and a doles out a lot of Benadryl. While touring the pet shop with two impressionable children looking for a furry companion to take home, the dapper feline comments on the exhibits in stereotypical and unflattering ways:

“One fish, two fish/red fish, blue fish
Three fish, four fish/ all by different fathers”

In another scene, the characters find themselves helping a banker redline selected blocks on Mulberry Street when they spot two men holding hands. The Cat in the Hat throws a broken bottle at them as the children scream.

“If he didn’t want it published, he wouldn’t have left it laying around,” said Alabama-based attorney Tonja Carter, who represents both the Geisel estate and Harper Lee. “This manuscript was found in an unmarked box that had been set out on the curb along with a bunch of old National Geographics. If that’s not as good as making it public, I’ll give up my license.”

It’s hard to believe this new book is by the same author as Hop on Pop. In this version, it’s Pop who’s all hopped up. But Random House is pressing forward with an initial release of one million copies, despite fears about tarnishing Geisel’s legacy.

“Oh, people can let Big Brother control what they read and what they don’t if they want to,” said Carter. “But we know from monitoring consumers’ purchase histories on Amazon that this book will be in high demand.”