The Early Works of Dr. Seuss, Vol. 1
by Theodor Seuss Geisel (Checker, 2005)

American soldiers fighting in tropical climates during World War II knew where to turn for help when faced with the threat of malaria.

Dr. Seuss. Or, as he was known then. Theodor Geisel.

"This is Ann" is a pamphlet distributed by the U.S. military after its publication in 1943. Commissioned by the Department of War, it taught soldiers about the seductive wiles of the Anopheles Mosquito, or "Ann," which is just waiting for the opportunity to sting unwitting servicemen. Drawing in what later would become known as his signature children's-book style, Geisel put the information, including precautions and treatments, in a boiled-down package that was actually fun to read.

That pamphlet is the first chapter in the first volume of The Early Works of Dr. Seuss, published by Checker.

Long before he would make his fortune on green eggs, ham, sneetches, grinches and Whos, Geisel was a writer and illustrator making a living.

You could certainly tell where Geisel was headed when you read his early masterpieces, such as the adventures of Tyrus in a Depression-era series of advertisements for Atlas Motor Products. (I think I even spied Horton in one of them.) Even earlier, beginning in the late 1920s, he drew cartoons and wrote brief, humorous stories for Judge Magazine, the job that launched his career. Here you'll find everything from the professional "ardour dampener" and "brow knitter" to tales of "Ye Knights of Ye Table Round" and the painstaking floral research that led to the development of the "ups-a-daisy" phrase.

This volume also contains a series of ads Geisel drew for the Macy-Westchester newspapers in suburban New York in 1937 and a later series of Chilton Wing-flow pen advertisements -- between them, his first book as Dr. Seuss, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was published -- as well as his L.P.C. Co. Building Contractors ads. There are also editorial cartoons from World War II published in PM Magazine, illustrations from Liberty Magazine and humorous drawings from a 1931 collection of Boners.

This book is a treat, particularly for anyone who either grew up with Dr. Seuss books or shared them with their own children. The clear signs of genius -- and a crazy sense of humor -- are all linked together by Geisel's unmistakable visual style. I really enjoyed seeing how this beloved figure got his start.

review by
Tom Knapp

8 December 2007

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