Dr. Seuss’s “What Pet Should I Get?”

What PetSeuss. Dr. What Pet Should I Get? Random House, 2015. [44p.]. $17.99 ISBN 978-0-553-52426-0.

In this charming new picture book, a brother and sister (the same pair from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish) visit a pet store to choose a new pet. The rhyming text describes their conversation about which pet would be the best, focusing on real animals for the most part, such as a dog, cat, bird, rabbit, or fish. A few imaginary pets are mentioned, including “If we had a big tent, then we would be able to take home a YENT!” The open-ended conclusion allows the reader to guess which pet was chosen.

Although Seuss died in 1991, his widow didn’t find the manuscript (including drawings) for this book until 2013. The endnote describes how his former art director Cathy Goldsmith determined when it was written (likely between 1958 and 1962), what revisions to the text were needed, and what colors Seuss would have requested for the illustrations.

Children will enjoy this story, with a text about the same length as How the Grinch Stole Christmas, containing Seuss’s signature rhyming narrative. The book design is similar to many of his picture books from the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, including The Sneetches and Other Stories; in fact, the yellow and teal background colors are common to both books. Another major reason many children will enjoy this book, without knowing the history, is that the plot of visiting a pet store (or animal shelter) is one that many children have experienced.

Parents and grandparents will also pick this up, because it will remind them of Seuss books from their youth. The rhyming text and color cartoon artwork is clearly reminiscent of his work for Baby Boomers; his later books, including Oh, the Places You’ll Go! featured more pastel colors. Families may find this a good fit when obtaining a new pet, as the text subtly encourages care be taken to find one that suits the household. Parents can extend the intent of the story by visiting a shelter instead of a pet store.

The endnote is quite useful for librarians and adult fans of Seuss, describing how the manuscript was found, edited, and published. There are several photos of Seuss, the manuscript, and a color chart showing how Seuss instructed the publisher to color his ink drawings.

Libraries will want to purchase this to read for a “pet” themed storytime, and to meet the demand from library users. Librarians and teachers should feel confident that this is a solid work of Seuss and not just something found in a drawer that he would not want to see the light of day. With its clear, relatable plot and nostalgic artwork, this will please a wide audience.

Penny Peck, San Jose State Univ. iSchool

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