Sketches of fantastic creatures by Dr. Seuss that have never before been published will see the light of day in new books being written and illustrated by an inclusive group of up-and-coming authors and artists, the company that owns the intellectual property rights to Dr. Seuss’ works announced Wednesday.
The new line of books will include original stories inspired by previously unpublished illustrations selected from the author’s archives at the University of California at San Diego, Dr. Seuss Enterprises said in a statement on the late writer’s birthday.
The announcement comes exactly one year after the business founded by the family of Dr. Seuss — whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel — announced that it would stop publishing six Dr. Seuss titles because they include racist and insensitive images, a decision that drew both condemnation and praise.
In “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” an Asian person is portrayed wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks and eating from a bowl. “If I Ran the Zoo” includes a drawing of two bare-footed African men wearing what appear to be grass skirts with their hair tied above their heads. The other books affected were “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!,” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.”
The new authors and illustrators will represent a diverse cross-section of racial backgrounds to represent as many families as possible, Dr. Seuss Enterprises said. Company officials were not available to comment, a spokesperson said.
“We look forward to putting the spotlight on a new generation of talent who we know will bring their unique voices and style to the page, while also drawing inspiration from the creativity and imagination of Dr. Seuss,” Susan Brandt, President and CEO of Dr. Seuss Enterprises, said in a statement.
The books, under the banner Seuss Studios and published by Random House Children’s Books, will be geared toward readers ages 4 to 8.
“The original Dr. Seuss sketch that serves as the inspiration for each of the new Seuss Studios books will be included in the book, along with a note from the creators explaining how they were inspired, and their process,” the San Diego-based company said.
The images include a catlike creature with enormous ears and a series of colorful hummingbirds with pointy noses.
The goal is to continue Geisel’s legacy, started in 1957 with the launch of the Beginner Books imprint at Random House, of inspiring young readers and supporting writers and artists starting their publishing careers, the company said.
The company seems genuine in its efforts to address inclusiveness, said Pamela Good, president of Beyond Basics, a Michigan-based nonprofit that promotes literacy.
“We believe that literacy is for everyone,” she said. “And as you try to find solutions that really are thoughtful and are heartfelt, they really do embrace everyone and allow everybody to be celebrated. And I think that what they’re doing right now is is a step in the right direction.”
Dr. Seuss Enterprises has not yet disclosed the writers and illustrators who will work on the new books because contracts are still being ironed out.
The first of the new books is expected to hit shelves next year, and the goal is to publish at least two new books per year.
Dr. Seuss books such as “Green Eggs and Ham” and “The Cat in the Hat” remain popular more than 30 years after Geisel’s death in 1991.
He earned an estimated $35 million in 2021, making him the fifth-highest paid dead celebrity of the year, according to Forbes. Roald Dahl is No. 1, followed by Prince, Michael Jackson and Charles Schulz.
Geisel, who was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, was No. 2 on the list in 2020 with $33 million in earnings. His books have been translated into dozens of languages, as well as in Braille, and are sold in more than 100 countries.
Story by Mark Pratt. Associated Press video journalist Luke Sheridan contributed to this report.