As I’ve been reading the six pulled Dr Seuss books I keep saying and thinking that these books will eventually be re-released in a more adult format. Shelved in the non fiction art area, or in fiction depending on who is putting books away that day, instead of in kids books. It may seem like a crazy idea, but it has already happened.
In 1939 Seuss published The Seven Lady Godivas. See, there wasn’t one Lady Godiva. There were seven ladies in the family. All naked. And they were all betrothed as well. One to each of the seven Peeping brothers. They were clothed. There’s a lot going on in this book.
First is the take on the Lady Godiva legend. Lady Godiva begged her husband to stop taxing the poor so much. He said I’ll do it if you ride through the town naked on horseback. Lady Godiva called his bluff, and did so. But first it had to be decreed that all peasantry close their windows and shut their eyes so that no one would see her in the nude. One towns person didn’t listen and had to get a look, which is where the term Peeping Tom comes from. This is all a grossly simplified version of the legend.
In this story, Lord Godiva tells his seven daughters that he will be leaving for battle. He is clad in armor, they are all sans clothes. Seuss doesn’t draw any of the seven women in any sort of titillating way. Mostly a lot of butts, and nothing that is any worse than a kids TV show making a butt joke. Your line in the sand on kids show booty jokes may vary. Lord Godiva is thrown from his horse and dies. The seven Ladies make a pact that they will not marry any of the seven Peepings until each Lady discovers a “horse truth”. Something to benefit mankind so that such a death will not befall anyone else.
Each Lady has their moment to discover some horse related saying that we are all familiar with. I didn’t try to guess which truth was being discovered by each lady and instead enjoyed the set up for the joke. The truths are amusing if eye rolling punchlines to each Ladies story. Seuss’s text flows in such a way that I’m trying to force pentameter into my head while reading to no avail. This is written straight forward and not in any rhyming structure like his more famous works.
It’s a party joke of a story. A little naughty but not really, and setting up seven punchlines as the story goes. I debated reading the book to my son but didn’t. Not because of any objectionable art, but because I think he would be bored of the story. Breaking down a tired idiom only works if one is familiar and tired of the idiom. He’s not going to get the word play because he’s not familiar with the phrases that are being played with.
The art, while maybe seen as more mature at the original time of printing, feels like nothing today. My kid has seen more bare butts in the Minions movie than this book has. Butts are funny to kids, always have been always will be.
What did surprise me is the Ladies are colored in a peach flesh tone. Most of Dr Seuss’s other works feature human characters as white as the pages they’re printed on. Except for the times that are getting those books in trouble. This book though features what looks like colored pencils work on the Godivas and the Peepings.
All of that said, I don’t think this book would add anything to a child. Reading it for amusement as an adult is a blast. But this book doesn’t feature a message like the Lorax or the Sneeches. Nor does it show early readers and writers how fun it can be to play with the English language. Ultimately, that would be my reason to not shelve this book in the kids area. They could handle the art but I don’t think they would enjoy the text.