Unpublished sketches of Dr. Seuss will serve as inspiration for a new series of children’s books that will be written and illustrated by a diverse group of emerging artists, according to the company that oversees the author’s estate.
The series of books will be released under the name Seuss Studios, a new project by Dr. Seuss Enterprises will publish at least two original books per year from 2023, a company spokeswoman said in a statement.
While a list of the authors and illustrators who will be working on the books is still being finalized, the company said they will come from diverse backgrounds and include people of color.
The announcement comes a year after Dr. Seuss Enterprises said that six books that Theodor Seuss Geisel wrote under the pseudonym Dr. Seuss would no longer be published for using images depicting people “in ways that are hurtful and wrong”.
For example, in “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” a character described as “a Chinese” has lines for eyes, wears a pointed hat, and carries chopsticks and a bowl of rice. Two characters in “If I Ran the Zoo” come from “the African island of Yerka” and are depicted as shirtless, shoeless, and looking monkeys.
Susan Brandt, the president and chief executive of Dr. Seuss Enterprises, said in a statement that the new venture “would help us ensure that Dr. Seuss’ images live on in the best possible way — and in new ways — for future readers.”
The legacy of Dr. Seuss, who died in 1991 and entertained millions of children around the world with fantasy stories often associated with moral lessons, has come under scrutiny in recent years. The decision to withdraw the six titles was the subject of breathless coverage on cable news and sparked complaints of “cancellation culture” from prominent conservatives.
Others, however, welcomed the estate’s decision to stop selling some of Dr. seuss.
“I applauded the decision to do that and take hurtful things off the market,” Lynda Claassen, director of special collections at the University of California, San Diego, said Wednesday.
The university houses the Dr. Seuss Collection – hundreds of unpublished sketches kept in an archive section of the school library.
Behind closed doors and in a room with its own security system, there are about 20 large steel drawers, each containing unpublished sketches by Dr. Seuss tucked away in special folders and sleeves, Mrs Claassen said.
There are about 750 of those sketches. Ms Claassen said that she and Ms Brandt and her team often searched the drawers for inspiration and project ideas. Some of the sketches will serve as the basis for a new book idea for the emerging artists that will be tapped for the project.
One of the never-before-seen illustrations released on Wednesday shows three colorful, smiling hummingbirds. The other is of a mouse-like creature with fluffy, elongated ears.
“You can tell a lot of them were book ideas because there were storyboards,” Ms Claassen said.
But dr. Seuss was also an “inveterate draftsman,” she said, “so there are a lot of what I would call various drawings that weren’t for books.”
When the new books are published, they will feature Dr. Seuss and a note from the artists explaining how they were inspired by it.
Anjali Adukia, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy who has researched racial inequalities in children’s books, said on Wednesday that she was “excited to see the stories they create, bring in their own experiences and they reflected through their work.”
Mallory Loehr, the executive vice president and publisher of Random House Books for Young Readers, will oversee the editorial direction for the new books. She said in a statement that the voices of the new authors and illustrators will “shine through every page, cover to cover — with a glimmer of Dr. Seuss’ imagination tucked into every book.”
Philip Nel, a children’s literature scholar at Kansas State University and the author of “Dr. Seuss: American Icon,” said Wednesday that he was “happy to see Dr. Seuss Enterprises went one step further than last year’s product recall.”
“I hope this first step is the first of many,” he said.