Happy Birthday, Dokter Seuss!
by Melanie J. Meyers, M.S., Senior Reference Librarian, Center for Jewish History
March 2, 2012 would have been the 108th birthday of the venerable cartoonist and children’s book author, Doctor Seuss. While Dr. Seuss was not Jewish, his books have a universal appeal that resonates with children (and adults) of all religions and cultures. His political cartoons were among the first to call attention to the dangers of anti-Semitism in general, and Adolf Hitler in particular, and they firmly supported the entry of the United States into World War II. He also drew many cartoons calling attention to the anti-Semitism of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, including a frame in which Dr. Seuss depicted Lindbergh riding on top of a “Nazi Anti-Semite Stink Wagon.” These cartoons may be found in the book Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel by Richard Minear (New York: The New Press, 1999), which is held by the Library of the YIVO Institute.
Additionally, the YIVO Library holds Yiddish translations of Dokter Seuss’s classic children’s books: Eyn Fish, Tsvey Fish, Royter Fish, Bloyer Fish (or, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish) and Di Kats der Payats (or, The Cat in the Hat). Both volumes include the following statement from the publisher: “Eyn Fish, Tsvey Fish, Royter Fish, Bloyer Fish by Dr. Seuss in Yiddish, captures the words, rhyme scheme, and spirit of the original. Also included are transliteration and an alphabet chart to help those not yet proficient in Yiddish.”
Perhaps the most unusual Dr. Seuss item in the YIVO Library is the copy of Heymish, der Elefand, (or, Horton, the Elephant) that was privately printed in Brooklyn (year unknown). It includes the translations of the two books that Dr. Seuss wrote about Horton, the lovable elephant who babysits an egg and discovers a small universe inhabited by tiny beings: Heymish, der Elfand (a translation of Horton Hatches the Egg), and Heymish Herṭ a ṿer, (or, Horton Hears a Who).
Happy birthday, Dokter! All the vers down in VerVille (or, all the Whos down in WhoVille) thank you!
Want to conduct your own exploration of the collections? You can start by clicking here.
Many thanks to Yeshaya Metal for his assistance in researching these books.