Review: What Pet Should I Get?

Posted on August 3, 2015

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what-pet-should-I-get-coverWhat Pet Should I Get?
By Dr. Seuss
Random House Books for Young Readers
July 2015
48 pages

Kay and her brother visit the pet shop because their dad said they can pick out a pet. After considering the array of pets to choose from – dogs, cats, puppies, kittens, birds, rabbits, fish, and even a yent — they can’t make up their minds. But they have to be home by noon so they must decide quickly. The pet they get will keep readers guessing.

Released 24 years after the death of Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), What Pet Should I Get? will inevitably be stacked up against his previous library of children’s books. The publisher’s end notes reveal that his long-time art director Cathy Goldsmith (and the art director for this book) felt the manuscript and artwork were created around the same time as One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, because the two kids are the same in both books. The illustrations in What Pet Should I Get? are vintage Dr. Seuss. According to the end notes, when the manuscript and illustrations were discovered, the sketches were finished in black and white. Goldsmith made the wise decision to use the same color scheme as One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish as the outcome delivers the joy of classic Dr. Seuss to his adoring fans.

Left: An original manuscript page. Right: The colorized version for What Pet Should I Get?

Left: An original manuscript page. Right: The colorized version for What Pet Should I Get?

However such revelations invite comparisons. Since the end notes describe Seuss as a perfectionist who “revised his text over and over and over again,” it is safe to assume the manuscript was unfinished because he wasn’t alive to revise it. And that is where What Pet Should I Get? disappoints. To jog your memory, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish follows Kay and her brother as they travel here and there and near and far visiting a menagerie of exotic creatures with unusual habits. The rhyming text of What Pet Should I Get? lacks the tempo and cadence of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. In fact, at times I do recall it did not seem like I was reading Dr. Seuss at all. Sorry, I couldn’t resist because that’s how clumsy the rhyme scheme felt – like it was written by someone posing as Dr. Seuss.

Also missing is the crescendo into a madcap macrocosm of zaniness that readers love about his books. Except for brief mention of a yent, What Pet Should I Get? never cuts loose on a wild tangent that is so quintessential Seuss. Despite its imperfections, What Pet Should I Get? is a fun story with a relevant theme, “make up your mind,” and a satisfying tribute to an American literary treasure.

Copyright (c) 2015 by Peggy Tibbetts

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