Picks and Pans Review: Dr. Seuss Goes to War

updated 11/15/1999 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/15/1999 01:00AM

Edited by Richard H. Minear

Before the Cat in the Hat, there was Hitler on a camel. The 1941-43 editorial cartoons of Dr. Seuss (real name: Theodor Seuss Geisel), newly published with essays by historian Minear and an introduction by Maus author Art Spiegelman, are a revelation. Drawn on deadline for the liberal—"We are against people who push other people around"—New York daily PM, the whimsical Seussian bestiary is instantly recognizable: No one could stretch a dachshund more becomingly. But there's nothing genial about Dr. Seuss's use of his fantastical zoo to howl against European fascism, American isolationism and racism at home and abroad. Above all, it is Hitler who really animated Dr. Seuss's imagination, and these cartoons foreshadowed the political bite of many later Seuss books—especially Yertle the Turtle, The Lorax and The Sneetches. Dr. Seuss was not without his own blind spots; there is a regrettable 1942 cartoon supporting the government's internment of Japanese-Americans. But Seuss's brilliant artistry was much more often on the side of the angels. (New Press, $25)

Bottom Line: How the Führer (Almost) Stole Christmas

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