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Dr Seuss’s secret Australian storybook revealed

David Penberthy, September 19, 2019 7:00PM The Australian

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Author and Illustrator Andrew Joyner signing copies of Dr Seuss's Horse Museum in New York, US, this week. media_cameraAuthor and Illustrator Andrew Joyner signing copies of Dr Seuss's Horse Museum in New York, US, this week.


Reading level: green

An Australian illustrator has made publishing history by completing a recently discovered, unfinished Dr Seuss book.

Until now, South Australian illustrator Andrew Joyner was sworn to secrecy.

Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum has been published around the world this week, 28 years after Dr Seuss — whose actual name was Theodor Seuss Geisel — died aged 87.

In 2012, his widow* Audrey was cleaning out his studio and found a box containing a manuscript* and sketches for a book called Horse Museum.

There was no date on the sketches but they are thought to be from the early 1950s.

The American illustrator became a worldwide sensation when his book The Cat in the Hat was published in 1957 because it was completely different to any other children’s book.

More than 70 years later, Joyner was sitting at his desk in his home studio in Strathalbyn, SA, when an email arrived offering the starring role in one of the greatest secrets in the history of children’s literature*.

A missing Dr Seuss book had been discovered — and of all the artists in the world, Joyner had been chosen to illustrate it.

SEUSS ILLUSTRATOR media_cameraAndrew Joyner illustrating the new Dr Seuss book at home in SA. Picture: Matt Turner

He was required to sign an agreement to keep the project a secret and, for the past 18 months, no one apart from his wife Rebecca knew what he was up to.

“The fact that I was sworn to secrecy helped me get it done so smoothly and without any fuss. It would have been quite debilitating* being asked endlessly about how the new Dr Seuss book was coming along” Joyner said.

“It was good working on it as a private project and treating it like any other book, but now that it is out and real, I feel a bit overwrought*.”

Dr Seuss media_cameraAuthor and Illustrator Andrew Joyner meeting a fan at the book launch for Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum in New York, US.

The book’s central character is a horse who guides a group of children through a museum looking at horses in paintings by artists such as ­Picasso, Monet, Munch and ­Magritte.

Geisel’s unfinished manuscript contained just simple sketches and minimal text.

“The roughs (Seuss’s manuscript) were actually very rough,” Joyner said.

Joyner came up with the idea of creating a horse character that would act as a guide through the museum.

Cathy Goldsmith, who headed the Dr Seuss publishing program at Random House, said Joyner’s style was the perfect fit for the project.

“We always wanted Andrew for the book,” she said

“His work pays homage* to Ted’s line, and characters and ­energy, but is still uniquely ­Andrew.”

Dr Seuss media_cameraAuthor and Illustrator Andrew Joyner (right) and publisher Cathy Goldsmith at the book launch for Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum in New York, US.

Joyner has many successful children’s books of his own including The Terrible Plop, Too Many Elephants In This House, Duck and Hippo and the Boris series.

Despite his own success, this project offer came as a complete surprise.

“I was pretty amazed,” said Joyner. “It’s hard to imagine. I still don’t know exactly why they thought, ‘Oh yes, he’s the person to do this’. I didn’t want to ask,” he added, laughing. “I thought I’d wait ’til I finished. But I still find it kind of remarkable that they went … Here! Because there are lots of people who could do it, I’m sure.”

Like millions of others the world over, he had read and loved Dr Seuss books as a child (he’s about to turn 50). “I’ve probably been influenced by that, by his style … how I draw, without me knowing it,” he added.

Dr. Seuss reading campaign. Kids at Cromer Public School read Dr. Seuss media_cameraSummer, Raphael and Indiana reading Dr Seuss Books, with a drawing of Dr Seuss’s Lorax in the background. Picture: Tim Hunter.

Theodor Seuss Geisel was commissioned by publishers Houghton Mifflin in the 1950s to come up with “a story that first-graders can’t put down”. At the time, children’s school readers were very dull.

The problem for Geisel was the publishers had a lot of rules: the text had to be written from a pre-approved list of 350 simple words and the whole book had to be no longer than 250 words.

Geisel almost gave up, telling one person that if he came up with two words that rhymed and made sense, that would be the title. “Cat” and “hat” provided the breakthrough he needed.

Celebs read Dr Seuss' The Cat In The Hat


  • widow: wife of someone who has died
  • manuscript: an author’s written work that hasn’t yet been published
  • literature: written works
  • debilitating: make someone unable to function
  • overwrought: wound up; in a state of nervous anxiety
  • homage: tribute


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  1. Who was Dr Seuss and what was his real name?
  2. What is Dr Seuss’s Horse Museum about?
  3. Who thought of the horse as museum guide?
  4. Name three of Andrew Joyner’s own books.
  5. What were the restrictions for writing The Cat in the Hat?


1. Coming Soon!
Dr Seuss books have long been a favourite in libraries and homes around the world. And now it won’t be long before there is a new Dr Seuss book hitting the shelves of your school or local library!

Your job is to let other children know this book is coming out soon and get them excited about it.

To do this, create a poster (A3 size) to advertise this book before it comes to your library.

Include in your poster:

the title and some Seuss/Joyner-inspired illustrations

who the author and illustrator are

a few hints of what the story is about — include enough to get people interested but don’t give too much away!

of all the Dr Seuss books available, what makes this book special.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, The Arts — Visual Arts

2. Extension
Ask your teacher if you can borrow a collection of Dr Seuss books from your school library (or from elsewhere if needed).

Look through a number of his books. If you want to, you can read the fun stories but the main idea is to look at the illustrations.

What do you notice about the illustrations between the books? What similarities are there?

Imagine you were asked to illustrate yet another of Dr Seuss’ unfinished books (pretend there was another one found). Decide who the central character will be and a brief idea of the plot.

Have a go at drawing your central character in a scene from the story, in the style of Dr Seuss’s illustrations.

How did you go? Do you think your illustrations would suit a Dr Seuss book?

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, The Arts — Visual Arts

The glossary of terms helps you to understand and learn the ambitious vocabulary being used in the article. Can you use the words outlined in the glossary to create new sentences? Challenge yourself to include other VCOP (vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation) elements in your sentence/s. Have another look through the article. Can you find any other Wow Words not outlined in the glossary?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Which is your favourite Dr Seuss book? Why?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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