THE YAWNING CAT: DR. SEUSS AND NETTIE GEISEL (AKA DR. SEUSS'S MOM)
The Yawning Cat debuted in 1967, stretching across two pages of Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat Songbook. In this ambitious project, the Cat and an additional host of characters illustrate a collection of songs written by Ted Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) that were eventually recorded into an album. The artwork generated for this project, from Ted’s early concept drawings to his final pen and inks, are some of the most engaging of his entire catalog.
The Songbook was a quintessential Seuss project. It drew upon the Cat’s ever-expanding popularity, while diving deep into Ted’s creative roots as a child in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was there that his mother, Nettie Geisel, was the first to identify the unique and inescapable artistic side of her son. She believed in the power of reading, music and the arts, and worked hard to make those elements a centerpiece in Ted’s young life.
THE MUSIC OF WORDS
In the Geisel home, 74 Fairfield Street, the family’s parlor was dubbed “the music room,” housing their piano and record collection, both of which were the family’s pride and joy. Here the Geisels and Nettie’s family, the Seusses, would gather after family suppers on Saturdays to sing together. Ted’s aunt and uncle, and his Grandmother Seuss, lived together just around the bend on Fairfield Street, while his grandfather Geisel was only a few blocks away on Sumner Avenue.
Both Ted and his sister, Marnie, took piano lessons. Marnie, the star pupil, practiced one to two hours a day. Ted was another story. His biographers Neil and Judith Morgan wrote:
These biographical tidbits seem to converge in The Cat in the Hat Songbook, where reading and writing meet music and unimpeded Seussian fun. Published in 1967, just one year before Ted’s father passed away, it may have been a shout-out to what Ted said was his dad’s “jolly baritone” and the way at holidays he “held a pointer to the lyrics of folk songs he had chalked on a slate.” The inside flyleaf of the book even has the Cat in the Hat holding a pointer; the giveaway words on this page reading — “Let Us All Sing.”