May 13, 2010


Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Party Edition. By Dr. Seuss. Random House. $17.99.

Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go Pop-up! Pop-ups by David A. Carter. Robin Corey Books. $28.99.

Dr. Seuss’s Oh, Baby! Go, Baby! Based on and inspired by Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Random House. $10.99.

     The last Dr. Seuss book to be published during Theodor Seuss Geisel’s lifetime, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! has proved to be one of the most adaptable. Nearly two decades after its author’s death in 1991, the book continues to spawn greeting cards, posters, graduation gifts and many other variations that make it seem a wholly upbeat affirmation that the recipient, any recipient, has great things in store in the future.

     Except that it’s not the book that many people think it is. That makes it worthwhile to buy the new “Party Edition” of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (which has an embossed jacket printed on foil but is otherwise the same as the version first published in 1990) and read it from start to finish. There’s some worry and even cynicism in this book to balance its upbeat moments; and although, yes, the conclusion is resolutely optimistic, it will be hard for a reader to forget the Seussian scenes of the boy playing basketball alone at a ramshackle house, dreaming of something better; the “things that scare you right out of your pants” looming darkly on both sides of a gateway that leads to a road to who-knows-where; and especially The Waiting Place, filled with people waiting for “the phone to ring, or the snow to snow,/ or waiting around for a Yes or No/ or waiting for their hair to grow.” This is the Seuss of such other late works as The Butter Battle Book and You’re Only Old Once! – gently chiding the world, but chiding it nevertheless. There is a great deal more to Oh, the Places You’ll Go! than many 21st-century readers realize – the book is definitely worth a visit, or revisit. Or several.

     But of course it is the celebratory aspects of the book that are most amenable to repackaging and selling in a wide variety of guises – and in truth, those upbeat elements are as wonderful now as they were when the good doctor created them. David A. Carter, who previously created a pop-up of Horton Hears a Who! and has written (or, rather, engineered) 75 pop-up books in all, brings tremendous creativity to an excerpted version of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! No Waiting Place here, but a couple of the darker and lonelier scenes do appear – and seem far less threatening in three-dimensional form. Carter gets the Seuss lollipop colors right, and manages to keep many of the perspectives of the original drawings while creating 3D packed with balloons, pennants, castles and humbler abodes, and even the “mountain” that Dr. Seuss has his character moving – here attached to the boy by three lengths of bright yellow thread. This is a gift book par excellence, not a substitute for the original but a supplement to it, designed for someone who is graduating from somewhere and is certainly, definitely, or at least most likely going on to even greater things.

     Aimed at the other end of the Seussian spectrum, Dr. Seuss’s Oh, Baby! Go, Baby! is sort of an introduction to Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Intended for children up to age three, it is a bright and bouncy board book with tabs to pull or turn (the “optical illusion” created on one page is particularly impressive), fluffy stuff to feel, a few touches of foil, and even a flap that opens to the promise, “Baby, you’ll move mountains!” That’s not quite what Dr. Seuss had to say, but it scarcely matters: this is simply a book for the youngest Seuss fans, or rather fans-to-be, providing a sturdy, visually attractive sampling of Seuss sentiments to young children who will presumably be enthralled by this easier-than-easy version of the book and eventually graduate – not from Dr. Seuss but to him and the many delights of his work.

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