By Hope Katz Gibbs
Originally printed in the November issue of the Costco Connection
Though Theodore Seuss Geisel died on Sept. 24, 1991, nearly 25 years later, on July 28, 2015, Random House gave us a remarkable gift — a new book by the most beloved children’s book author of all time: “What Pet Should I Get?”
In classic Seuss style, readers will find familiar characters, colors, and the anapestic tetrameter that the good doctor made famous. Plus, we get a few more lessons in the art of growing up.
“What I love about this book is that it’s about a classic childhood moment: choosing a pet,” explains Cathy Goldsmith — the art director at Random House who worked with Dr. Seuss for the last 11 years of his life (1980-1991).
Click on the video below to watch a brief interview with Goldsmith, who gives a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Dr. Seuss’s newer-than-new new book.
“It also drives home another essential message: Make up your mind,” says Goldsmith, referring to the portion of the story where the children are behaving as do most kids — and some adults — when having to choose from a cornucopia of possibilities. They ask:
“What if we took
one of each kind of pet?
Then our house would be full of the pets
we could get.”
But then they reconsider.
Dad would be mad.
We could only have one.
If we do not choose,
we will end up with NONE.”
Goldsmith, now 65, seems as amused by the book as most kids will be. And for good reason. Now the president and publisher of the Beginner Books line and the Dr. Seuss publishing program at Random House, she was one of the first recipients of a call from Dr. Seuss’ widow, Audrey, who discovered the unpublished manuscript in the fall of 2013.
“We got the call as soon as she rediscovered the box filled with pages of text and sketches, which she had originally found shortly after Ted’s death in 1991 while remodeling their home,” Goldsmith shares. “But it spent all this time forgotten in a closet in his office until Audrey and Ted’s longtime secretary, Claudia Prescott, were cleaning house.”
Three days later, Goldsmith flew to Geisel’s La Jolla, CA, home to check out the treasure.
“The contents of the box were placed in neat piles on a glass-top table, and ‘What Pet’ was there waiting for us,” recalls Goldsmith, who estimates it was written between 1958 and 1962 because the starring brother and sister team are the same characters featured in Geisel’s 1960 best-selling beginning reader book, “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.”
Once the new book was in her hands, Goldsmith says she felt guided by Geisel. “My connection to Ted remains as vital as it was when we worked closely together years ago — I know he is looking down, watching over the process, and I feel a tremendous responsibility to do everything just as he would have done himself.”
A native New Yorker, Goldsmith has always had a passion for art, but her parents insisted on a liberal arts education.
After graduating from Cornell University, Goldsmith gravitated to the publishing world. On a friend’s suggestion, she applied for a job as assistant art director at Random House, and landed the gig. That was nearly four decades ago.
“I can honestly say that working with Ted, and many other amazing authors and illustrators here, I’ve enjoyed just about every moment of my career,” Goldsmith insists. “I still have some things I’d like to do — such as work on a few more of the findings from that box that Audrey Geisel found. So perhaps some of the best is yet to come.”