These are puzzling times that we're living in today and I wanted to share my thoughts on the statement made by Dr. Seuss Enterprises. I'm a proponent of freedom and while Dr. Seuss Enterprises obviously has every right to cease the publication and licensing of whatever intellectual property they control, I hope that my post might invoke some thoughtful reconsideration of the situation. I'm personally saddened by the decision and in this post I'm going to leave the memes, whataboutisms, and cancel culture talk behind. I will explain why I believe the decision is a mistake, offer an alternative solution, and end by celebrating the books in question.
If you're not familiar, this is a classic example of the Streissand effect. Soon after the statement was made the price of these books skyrocketed and they've taken over various bestsellers lists! I believe after time passes and the mania dies down a bit the prices will stabilize at a lower amount, but I think the price floor will end up being permanently higher. The physical books now have true scarcity on the supply side and the Streissand effect has ratcheted up demand. This demand will look for cheaper alternatives and that's where the big problem for Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ intention lies. Digital copies will be distributed illegally and the distribution of the books and their contents will reach a much wider audience than before. According to Dr. Seuss Enterprises the intention is to represent and support all communities and families and these books will cease publication and licensing because they portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong. If we assume the intent of ceasing publication and licensing is to minimize the distribution of these hurtful and wrong portrayals of people, it's safe to say they've accomplished the exact opposite.
We can't go back in time and change the past but if we could, the best approach would have been to do nothing. I don't know about you, but no one in my circles was talking about Dr. Seuss online with such energy before 03/02/2021. If they were, the discussion was most likely a one-off event and probably not even about the six books in question. As far as Seuss books go, these aren't the mainstream titles one thinks of when Seuss come to mind. That being said, what Dr. Seuss Enterprises could have done, and can still do, is to continue publishing the books and if they truly believe the content of the books shouldn't be distributed, simply edit and/or remove the hurtful and wrong portrayals of people. This approach would likely display some of the properties of the aforementioned demand mania, but there's a difference between change and finality. I hope Dr. Seuss Enterprises reconsiders because I want other fathers to be able to share these fun, wonderful books with their children as I have. Making small changes can be the compromise that allows that to happen.
Celebration of Seuss
"Adults are just obsolete children, and the hell with them." - Dr. Seuss
In our house, we own a lot of Dr. Seuss books. In fact, we own hardbacks of 5 of the 6 books that will cease publication and licensing and we read Dr. Seuss weekly, if not daily. His books are filled with fun, they inspire imagination, and many have important life lessons that are easier to teach because of his gift of storytelling and the whimsical cadence of the text. If you can get a copy of these books and more generally any Dr. Seuss books for your kids or even for yourself, I can't recommend them enough. As I mentioned above, I'll end the post with a celebratory section for each of the books for which Dr. Seuss Enterprises has ceased publication and licensing.
And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
This is Dr. Seuss' first book for children. This book is a great reminder to me as a father that the playfulness and unbridled imagination of children is something to support and enjoy instead of squash or disregard. What a privilege it is to be able to so easily and naturally slip into these wonderfully creative daydreams.
If I Ran the Zoo
This book feels a lot more like Dr. Seuss with it's wild made-up creatures, words, and rhyming cadence. It's hard not to read this book with gusto and I believe that energetic reading is why it's one of the most requested from my daughter. In addition to the aforementioned frivolities, the theme of the book is a great example of aspirational thinking. Young Gerald McGrew, our protagonist, is a fan of the zoo in his town but he's got big plans for how he'd improve it, how hard he'd work, and what sort of recognition he'd receive creating the gol-darndest zoo on the face of the earth!
McElligot's Pool doesn't feel dissimilar to If I Ran the Zoo, but the difference is the protagonist Marco dreams big about catching fish in McElligot's Pool despite being called a fool for it. He displays qualities of confidence, contrarianism, and patience in addition to the common themes of imagination and wonder. These qualities resonate with me and my interests in software and finance. One would think that working in software for the past decade is enough validation to not experience impostor syndrome, but I know I'm not alone in feeling this way from time to time. Instilling a strong sense of self-confidence can have an outsized positive impact on a childs future endeavors. In finance and more precisely investing, history teaches us that contrarian thinking and patience are necessary for outperforming. Think differently before others do, have the confidence to capitalize on those thoughts, and be patient so the magic of compounding can do its thing.
On Beyond Zebra!
This is a favorite and oft-read Seuss book in our home. The message aligns well with the values of education and learning that my parents and grandparents raised me with. The quote "You'll be sort of surprised what there is to be found once you go beyond Z and start poking around." is a perfect summary of those values. These values, I'm quite happy to say have been a large contributor to the successes I've had in life. I hope to never lose the desire I have to discover, will to continuously learn, and most importantly I hope I'm not like most people who stop at the Z.
Scrambled Eggs Super!
This book will always have a special place in my heart. My wife Katie and I bought this book at a comic book store in London on a roadtrip around the UK. Our daughter Nora, 21 months old at the time, travelled with us and she not only loves the book, but she thinks I make the best scrambled eggs! The book follows Peter T. Hooper as he tells his sister Liz the story of his Scrambled Eggs Super-Dee-Dooper-dee-Booper, Special de luxe, a-la-Peter-T. Hooper. The lesson of the book can be summarized by my all time favorite Seuss quote: "If you want to get eggs you can't buy at a store, you have to do things never thought of before."
The Cat’s Quizzer
I've not had the privilege of owning or even reading this one, but I hope to get my hands on a copy soon!
Thanks Dr. Seuss
My family and I love Dr. Seuss books and I know we'll enjoy reading and learning from him for years to come.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I hope that you, like Conrad Cornelius O'Donald O'Dell, will not stop at the Z.