Your collection of Dr. Seuss is no longer complete thanks to Charles D. Cohen, a dentist and probably the biggest Seuss fan on the planet. He uncovered seven early Seuss stories published in magazines between 1950 and 1951 and they found their way to Random House. The stories have now been published as both a book and an Oceanhouse Media iOS app (US$8.99) in a collections entitled The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories.
Oceanhouse has been publishing Seuss for years and they were given the opportunity to release the app on the same day as the physical book, which is as far as I know, a first. The collection includes:
- The Bippolo Seed, a mischievous, greedy cat leads an innocent duck astray.
- The Bear, the Rabbit, and the Zinniga-Zanniga, a single eyelash saves a rabbit from an insecure bear.
- Gustav the Goldfish, a boy overfeeds his pet fish, causing it to outgrow its surroundings.
- Tadd and Todd, identical twins in search of their individuality.
- Steak for Supper, Seussian creatures follow a boy home hoping for a steak dinner.
- The Strange Shirt Spot, a boy who can’t seem to get dirt off of his shirt and everything else around him.
- The Great Henry McBride, a day-dreaming boy fantasizes about his career choices.
From Steak For Supper
In going through the app, I really got a kick out of seeing well known and loved Seuss characters in their gestational state. The duck in the Bippolo Seed looks a lot like a Sneetch and Gustav the Goldfish is a twin of the fish in The Cat in the Hat. The rhyming verse is as good as it ever was, but often the graphics looks hastily done and rougher than those in the later books. This isn’t a flaw in the app, it’s just that the stories were intended for magazines and not finished books.
The Fish in the Cat in the Hat Get Huge
There aren’t as many pictures in the magazine stories as we’ve grown accostomed to in the books. I saw a picture showing how a story orignally appeared in Redbook Magazine, and the layout shows the text as a two page block surrounded by small pictures. The app goes a long way toward solving this limitation of graphics by going a bit further than usual in panning and zooming pictures and chunking the text into small bite-sized morsels bringing immediacy to the works. This really works well.
As usual, Oceanhouse capitalizes on its wonderful children’s book engine. When they got into the business, the company took time and care building a wonderful engine that just about any content could be dropped into. Over time this engine has defined what constitutes a good children’s book and is still a standard to use for comparison and emulation.
All Oceanhouse books offer three modes: Read It Myself, Read To Me and Auto Play. The first two are differentiated by adding or not, a terrific narration. In The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories, four narrators are used and they are the just wonderful. Auto Play is just that. Full narration, sound, animation and all pages are turned. The only problem is that you can’t get out until the story is finished.
Oceanhouse has once again done a great job with appropriate atmospheric sounds that can be heard with or without narration. After a word block is read, swiping zooms or pans the page, or if all text has been displayed, turns to the next page. Tapping on any word pronounces it and tapping on any object displays a large descriptive word as the word is spoken.
An added benefit for children who own some Oceanhouse apps is that there is no new learning curve since they all work the same. I’m sure that this was by design.
The app is universal making it work perfectly on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches but of course the larger iPad screen provides a far better experience.
If you or someone you know, whether large or small, is a Seuss fan, go get a copy of The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories. It may be seminal Seuss, but it’s excellent stuff. I had a great time and think that you will too.
Video of How the Book Came to Be