Why Dr. Seuss Liked Drawing Dirty Pictures

By Al Ravenna, New York World-Telegram and the Sun - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Al Ravenna, New York World-Telegram and the Sun - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1960, editors at Random House told The New Yorker that the demographic for the works of Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, was children aged 5 to 9 years old. Books like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat have become perennial sellers, with the writer-illustrator as closely identified with childhood entertainment as Mister Rogers.

But Dr. Seuss had a mischievous side, one that was in sharp contrast to the kid-friendly material that kept him at the top of the bestseller lists for decades. Largely unseen by the public, it was directed at his editorial supervisors at Random House. When Geisel submitted the manuscript for Dr. Seuss’s ABC, an alphabet primer published in 1963, editor Michael Firth was surprised to see the letter “X” accompanied by a naked woman with the following copy:

“Big X, little x. X, X, X. / Someday, kiddies, you will learn about SEX.”

Geisel knew the page would never see the light of day: His habit of including lurid material stemmed from wanting to make sure his editors were paying attention to his work. (He may also have been trying to avoid the monotony that comes with all-ages prose.) Speaking of his work process, Geisel once said that his first drafts were full of “swear words and dirty words and everything else … then I go back and clean it up, have a little fun with it.”

The book cover for 'The Seven Lady Godivas' by Dr. Seuss
Random House

Whether there was ever an X-rated draft of Green Eggs and Ham has apparently been lost to history. The only mature-audience title Geisel published was 1939's The Seven Lady Godivas, which was created with an ambition to “draw the sexiest women I could.” (The nudist Godivas appear naked throughout the book.) It sold poorly, however, moving just 2500 copies during its initial release. For Seuss fans, it was better for both the author and his brand that he keep his more salacious urges to himself.

Kids Can Join Children's Book Author Mo Willems for Daily "Lunch Doodles" on YouTube

Screenshot via YouTube
Screenshot via YouTube

For children interested in taking drawing lessons, there are few better teachers than Mo Willems. The bestselling author and illustrator has been charming young readers for years with his Pigeon picture book series. Now, from the Kennedy Center, where he's currently the artist-in-residence, Willems is hosting daily "Lunch Doodles" videos that viewers can take part in wherever they are. New lessons are posted to the Kennedy Center's YouTube channel each weekday at 1:00 p.m. EST.

With the novel coronavirus outbreak closing schools across the country, many kids are now expected to continue their education from home. For the next several weeks, Willems will be sharing his time and talents with bored kids (and their overworked parents) in the form of "Lunch Doodles" episodes that last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. In the videos, Willems demonstrates drawing techniques, shares insights into his process, and encourages kids to come up with stories to go along with their creations.

"With millions of learners attempting to grow and educate themselves in new circumstances, I have decided to invite everyone into my studio once a day for the next few weeks," Willems writes for the center's blog. "Grab some paper and pencils, pens, or crayons. We are going to doodle together and explore ways of writing and making."

If kids don't want to doodle during lunch, the videos will remain on YouTube for them to tune in at any time. The Kennedy Center is also publishing downloadable activity pages to go with each episode on its website [PDF]. For more ways to entertain children in quarantine or isolation, check out these livestreams from zoos, cultural institutions, and celebrities.

Dreaming of Your Favorite City? This Website Will Create a Personalized Haiku Poem About It for You

OpenStreetMap Haiku will capture the colorful character of your hometown in a few (possibly silly) phrases.
OpenStreetMap Haiku will capture the colorful character of your hometown in a few (possibly silly) phrases.
vladystock/iStock via Getty Images

You no longer need to spend all your free time struggling to capture the vibe of your favorite city in a few carefully chosen syllables—OpenStreetMap Haiku will do it for you.

The site, developed by Satellite Studio, uses the information from crowdsourced global map OpenStreetMap to create a haiku that describes any location in the world. According to Travel + Leisure, the poems are based on data points like supermarkets, shops, local air quality, weather, time of day, and more.

“Looking at every aspect of the surroundings of a point, we can generate a poem about any place in the world,” the developers wrote in a blog post. “The result is sometimes fun, often weird, most of the time pretty terrible. Also probably horrifying for haiku purists (sorry).”

The results are also often waggishly accurate. For example, here’s a haiku describing Washington, D.C.:

“The same pot of coffee
Fresh coffee from Starbucks
The desk clerk.”

In other words, it seems like the city runs on compulsive coffee refills and paperwork. And if you thought life in Brooklyn, New York, was a combination of alcohol-fueled outings to basement bars and traffic-filled trips into the city, this poem probably confirms your suspicions:

“Getting drunk at The Nest
Today in New York
Green. Red. Green. Red.”

The website’s creators were inspired by Naho Matsuda’s Every Thing Every Time, a 2018 art installation outside Theatre Royal in Newcastle, England, that used data points to generate an ever-changing poem about the city.

Wondering what OpenStreetMap Haiku has to say about your hometown? Explore the map here.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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