The wonderful world of Doctor Seuss is alive and well in Springfield, Massachusetts, where a new museum has opened honoring famous children's book writer Theodor Geisel, who most people know as, Dr.Seuss.
The new Amazing World of Dr.Seuss Museum is full of the wonders of his most famous children's books: a stack of turtles from "Yurtle The Turtle," a climbable statue of Horton the elephant, and scenes from "And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street," which is a real street just blocks away from the museum.
Absent from the museum are examples of Geisel's early advertising work and World War II-era propaganda and political illustrations, which some critics consider racist.
"This museum is about visitors encountering the creatures that sprang out from Ted Geisel's imagination — Horton, the Cat in the Hat, the Lorax, Sam-I-Am — that got kids excited about reading, which was really his preoccupation later on in his career," said Kay Simpson, president of the Springfield Museums complex, adding that the museum is primarily aimed at children.
However, not everyone is happy.
Katie Ishizuka, director of the Conscious Kid Library, which lends what she says are more diverse and appropriate books for young readers, and has written on Geisel's work, says that by not referencing Geisel's early, wartime work, propaganda that stereotyped the Japanese, the museum is telling only half the story.
"They don't acknowledge the full picture of him, or they try to minimize that or sweep it under the rug," said Ishizuka.
She added that even in Geisel's children's books, characters of color are subservient or secondary to the white characters, or depicted as stereotypes and caricatures.
Richard Minear, a professor emeritus of Japanese history at the University of Massachusetts who wrote "Dr.Seuss Goes to War" about Geisel's political illustrations, said Geisel certainly had a blind spot on race, but it's not fair to judge his entire career on that work.
"He matured and he developed a whole lot from those early years," Minear said.Illustrating his point, by noting that "Horton Hears a Who!" was an allegory about post-war Japan and the nation's relationship with the U.S.
The museum is expected to draw about 100,000 visitors annually and is considered part of Springfield's economic renaissance, according to Springfield's mayor, Domenic Sarno.
Photo: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism