Reject a Hit: Dr. Seuss

Let’s step once again into the role of the unconvinced, perhaps even curmudgeonly or fool-hearted editor: What harsh rejection letters might the authors of some of our favorite hit books have had to endure?

This issue’s contribution comes from Donna Cameron of Brier, Wash., who charmed WD editors with her imaginative rendering of a rejection to a man whose stories would become staples on every child’s bookshelf.

January 28, 1954

Dear Mr. Geisel, or “Dr. Seuss,” if you prefer,

We must respectfully decline to publish THE CAT IN THE HAT. While we’re always in the market for great children’s books, your submission is lacking in many ways:

* The depiction of latch-key children, abandoned by their mother to fend for themselves at home, is a less-than-wholesome image for families, made more disturbing by the children’s irresponsible action of allowing a stranger in the house while their mother is absent.
* The fact that the stranger is this most unsavory “cat in the hat” serves to escalate the situation to a point that most children would find unsettling. Remember that children’s books are often read at bedtime, and your story of a pillaging cat, marauding creatures (or “Things,” as you’ve branded them), plus threats to the family pet—an admittedly endearing fish—could certainly result in nightmares for impressionable young children.
* This brings us to the most compelling reason for rejecting your manuscript: The rhyme scheme is almost impossible to eradicate from one’s mind; it stays with one for hours, disturbing sleep and influencing one’s own speech most inappropriately.

In closing, doctor, there is no way that we would publish your book today. And not tomorrow, or next year; we ask you not to contact us here.

With concern,
Horton Hoover, Senior Editor

P.S.: We did not like it, not one tiny bit; as a
writer, sir, we urge you to quit.


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