'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 30 September 2011

Review: The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories

To open a book and have your childhood rise up and rush over you like an ocean wave, is a mighty thing to behold. It floods your mind, grabs hold of your heart and trips up your eyes.

You suddenly feel so little again. You even bring the book's pages to your face and smell them - and by golly - they smell just like they did in 1974. It's a beautiful thing.

This was my experience with The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories. The vibrant cover of this hardback book, complete with dust jacket, is as bright and entrancing as a showground tune.

Then there's opening it. Comprising seven stories that were originally published in Redbook magazine in the early 1950s, the book also features original Seuss artwork, though clearly not enough to create individual, stand-alone books of each story.

In fact, one of the very first things I thought of as I finished story number seven, was this "Why oh why have they not created individual, stand-alone books of each story??" How glorious it would be to add seven - count them - SEVEN - new takes to our Seuss library. I can only presume it was an illustration thing and that the publishers wished to remain authentic in the book's construction.

I don't mind. So long as I have these tales in my arms, bound within the cover of a bright blue book, I don't care how they're served up.

The seven stories are indeed, a delicious dish. Comprising

The Bippolo Seed
The Rabbit, the Bear and The Zinniga-Zanniga
Gustav the Goldfish
Tadd and Todd
Steak for Supper
The Strange Shirt Spot
The Great Henry McBride

the stories run to a typical Seuss book length, each running around six to eight pages, with accompanying illustrations. It's interesting to note that Gustav the Goldfish became a Seuss Beginner Book - A Fish Out of Water - adapted by his wife Helen Palmer and illustrated by PD Eastman, who illustrated several Seuss Beginner Books.

It's been argued that this fishy tale could have been originally written by Palmer, although it was the first of the Dr's stories published in Redbook magazine and was credited to Seuss at that time.

The other stories in the book are as mesmerising as one would expect from this rhythmic master of childhood delight. From the fateful collaboration between a duck and a cat in The Bippolo Seed to the peas-in-a-podness of twins Tadd and Todd - this is fine literary muster.

My favourite of the seven, though, would have to be The Rabbit, the Bear and the Zinniga-Zanniga - a whacky tale about a cluey rabbit who escapes the jaws of a bear by bringing attention to the fact that the bear has 10 eyelashes on one eye, but only nine on the other.

How can this disturbing birth trait be rectified? Why, with the bloom of the Zinniga-Zanniga tree, of course. Gorgeously special stuff - and the story stuck so vividly in my mind, I had techni-colour Seussy dreams that very night.

Yes, this is the stuff of childhood dreams, alright. Long live Dr Seuss and praise to Seussologist Charles Cohen for uncovering this treasure.

Make sure you snaffle your copy soon - HarperCollins are donating $2 from every book sold in Australian Bookstores to The Children’s Hospital in Westmead, during the month of October. Donations will go towards research into childhood illness, the purchasing of equipment, and ensuring that every child admitted to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead will continue to receive world-class care and support.

For more on the history of this book and a peek at an amazing video on its origins, visit My Little Bookcase.

Title: The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories
Author/Illustrator: Dr Seuss
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia, $19.99
Publication Date: 1 October 2011
ISBN: 9780007438457
Format: Hard cover with dust jacket
For ages: Everyone
Type: Picture Book