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'Dr. Seuss Draws Boners' and Other Literary Classics


As I mentioned back in my introductory blog, I work at my university’s library as a student worker. I am a senior and will graduate in just two months, heading out into the real world. This will be my fourth full year of working in the library, time that has flown by. In that time, I have seen a lot of books, as you might imagine. In my department, I pull books from shelves, deliver books, wrap books, and unwrap books. I have probably handled books well into the thousands.

Ever since I started, I have occasionally come across books which have defied explanation. After pulling a book from the shelves or unwrapping a returned book, I can only stare at it, wondering what on earth I’m looking at. Some of these books have made me chuckle, while others have made me scratch my head, befuddled. Since I have worked at the library, I have sometimes pulled out my phone and snapped a shot of these books to send to friends to share the weirdness.

So, with my time working in the library soon drawing to a close, I wanted to share some of these books that have made me laugh with the fine folks of Destructoid. In some cases, I have pictures of internal pages, to help give a clearer appreciation for these books. In others, well, I know that you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but how can you not with some of these books? At the end, we’re going to gather around for story time with a picture book, kids. Get your juice boxes ready.



With my title the way it is, I know you people are expecting boners, so here they are. This is The Omnibus Boners, a book that was published all the way back in 1931 and is a compendium of four different books, totally about 300 pages. These books include such classics as Boners, More Boners, Still More Boners, and Prize Boners. What can I say, when you have such a solid title, you don’t need to venture far for a sequel. Since Read Across America Day was a little over a week ago, and was also Dr. Seuss’s birthday, I thought it appropriate to talk about one of the good doctor’s earliest works.



And, well, that’s the title page. That’s literally all it says. Just a blank page with ‘Boners’ printed in the center. At least you know what you’re getting into.



A few pages later is an informational page, detailing the contents of the book. While these boners were collected by Alexander Abingdon, they were illustrated by Dr. Seuss. I don’t know why, but there’s something about the off-kilter title that just gets me every time.

I think it’s clear by now that ‘boner’ had a much different meaning in the past than it does today. A boner simply meant a mistake or blunder. It is due to the passage of time that the meaning has changed. This change of meaning has given rise to plenty of unintentional hilarity.



Instead of something cruder, the book is actually a collection of comical mistakes from school tests and assignments, with the humor deriving from misspelled or misused words. Most pages had a few of these sentences, with illustrations coming every dozen pages or so.


Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss

I did a bit of research on the background of this book and it turns out that a book of boners was Dr. Seuss’s first published book. So, if you’re ever feeling discouraged, just remember that Dr. Seuss, adored children’s author, got his start drawing boners. Sometimes you have to start small to make it big.


Emotion in Man and Animal

This book. I don’t know what to say, other than the cover is horrifying. The book is about psychology, but did they have to go with that cover? It is something more at home in Willy Wonka’s scary tunnel than on a psychological study book. The weird puzzle piece overlay, along with the odd collage of chimps and babies, makes this look downright claustrophobic. And look, that kid on the top is crying. I guess that is an emotion in animal and man, but why does this cover have to exist?


Brass Tactics
I don’t have much to say here, but I sincerely applaud whoever placed that barcode.


Tough Enough and Sassy

When I first pulled this book, I didn’t know what to think. There was simply a mysterious title in all caps on a red background. I had no idea what the book could be about. Were those two personality traits? Is this a book about a fighter? A sassy fighter? I know those are two things I aspire to be, but the title made no sense. There was a world of possibilities.


Tough Enough and Sassy

It’s just a picture book about some kid and farmyard animals. One of the animals is named ‘Tough Enough’ and the other is ‘Sassy’; I forget which is which. While on the subject of names, I love the co-creator’s name. Latrobe is an amazing name.


The Hero

The title on this one really confused me. Was it about a hardboiled detective of the pulp era? Who has junk? After flipping through it, I found that it was a collection of literary essays. Why it was given that title, I have no clue. However, I did find out that it belongs in the Southern Literary Studies genre. Makes sense, since the private parts are down south.



Gather round, kids, because it’s story time. This here is a picture book published in 1942 in support of the American war effort. When I first saw this book, I thought the title was one of the coolest I had ever seen. With what I assumed were gremlins on top of planes and one slashing apart a swastika, I assumed the book would be about those gremlins fighting through Nazi Germany and killing Hitler or something. After all, this was published before the United States actually entered the Western Front, but while public sentiment was very much in favor of it. Comics of the day had Superman and Batman taking the fight to the Axis Powers. So, what trouble could gremlins get into?



For whatever odd reason, the gremlins were written as the stars of this book, when, as you’ll find out, they are crazy, harmful creatures who take joy from being little trolls. As the gremlin explains here, gremlins have been hindering people for ages. They don’t go into any more detail than that, but the implications are a tad frightening. What exactly do they mean by 'hindering'? Does that apply to national tragedies? Accidents? Plagues? Explain to me again why I should care about these characters, since all they do is harm people for fun.

So, people have started getting wise to gremlins’ acts, because they have been messing with airplanes. And, the gremlins wonder, why should they be blamed for having fun? Oh, maybe it’s because MESSING WITH A PLANE COULD BE DEADLY. Seriously, this was when air travel was still relatively new. Because of the inherent risk in flying, it’s no wonder people began noticing gremlins. When you’re up in the air flying, you really don’t want a little mythical creature having fun on the wings like it’s The Twilight Zone.


Twilight Zone"Airplanes have gadgets. And gadgets are fun."

Showing just how clueless they are, they wonder why they are being blamed for their own actions. Maybe because actions have consequences, at least for people.



The structure of the book is as follows: a gremlin named Snoopy keeps trying to tell the other gremlins about threats to freedom, while they interrupt and ignore him. Basically, the whole book is one long, interrupted conversation. Communication is clearly not one of their strong suits. Snoopy keeps trying to tell the other gremlins about World War II, because the Nazis are hindering freedom. As it happens, there’s nothing gremlins like more than the freedom to be little jerks.



The whole book explains who the different gremlins are and what they like to do and mess up. Widget here is a prime jerk because he enjoys messing up blueprints. In addition to wasting the draftsman’s time, something like this could have a colossal impact on designs down the road. If Widgets mess up a design that is later built, something could go terribly wrong and lives would be at stake. People could die here, Widget, but don’t let that spoil your fun.



The degree of jerkitude varies. While the previous example could be deadly, some gremlins take pleasure in simple means of annoyance. This little gremlin likes to stick pins into people’s legs. So, the next time you feel a sharp pain in your leg, it’s probably a gremlin having fun. Please explain to me why this book is about them?



If you were worried that this picture book was too clean and kid-friendly, don’t you fret, because the sexism more than makes up for it. Also joining in on the fun are Fifinellas, the female gremlins. They do pretty much the same amount of trouble as the other gremlins, but are still treated differently.


GremlinsDespite gremlins being such little jerks and not caring a jot about the effects of their actions, they sure don't like women doing the same thing.



As our OCD Button so eloquently explains, “Fifinellas are always giggling and spoiling things. There are times to laugh and times to keep still, but Fifinellas don’t seem to know that.” For a group that can’t seem to help themselves when causing trouble, they sure are experts on self-control.

“My Fifinella followed me to a warning center last week. I don’t know why. Women ought to stay home some of the time.” Why on earth would a woman want to leave home? It boggles the mind. Button tries to have some fun, but his Fifinella giggles, spoiling his fun. Hey, don’t all women, amiright?

I don’t know what else to say about this page. Because we know that gremlins are little jerks, is this trying to be ironically sexist, or is it just a product of the times? Either way, I don’t know why we’re supposed to be sympathizing with the gremlins here.



Moving on to more trickery, this little gremlin tries to fog up a plane’s windshield, hindering the pilot’s sight. But, lucky for the pilot and the safety of every passenger on board, he has a carrot. You know, I know that carrots are supposed to be good for your sight, but I don’t think they give you X-ray vision in fog. I assume this book is running on Popeye rules. Also, seriously?! Fogging up those windshields could kill someone. Real life for the rest of us is just a game to a gremlin.



When Snoopy finally gets the other gremlins to listen, he explains that, no matter how much they try, gremlins can’t stop acting like little jerks; it’s in their nature. So, why not direct that trickery towards the Nazis? To show how clueless these little twerps are, one mentions going on a “wonderful ride to Africa.” This was during the military campaign in Northern Africa, when hundreds of thousands of people died. I wouldn't call that wonderful.


The Gremlins are Coming

So, the gremlins suddenly decide to focus their attention on the Axis Powers, because they like freedom and the Axis would take that away. After all the confusion and arguing, they can all agree on something. Okay, but why would the gremlins seriously care? No one can see them and almost no one knows they even exist. Regardless of who is in power, they are free to act like little jerks without any problems. Also, what happens after the war is over? Do they go back to being jerks to everyone and jeopardizing people’s safety? I think the gremlins are the villains of this story. Or, maybe I’m overanalyzing a picture book. It could be that.

So, that’s that. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little literary adventure. Working at the library has been a great experience and there’s been plenty more to it besides silly books. As a book lover, it’s been fun finding rare and antique books and skimming through pages of history. So, I guess the message of this blog is, go out and read something. You won’t be disappointed.

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About Bardleyone of us since 2:51 PM on 09.29.2014

Hi all, I'm Bardley.

I've been gaming ever since I was a kid, starting with the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy, both of which I still own and use. In the past few years, I've really enjoyed getting into retro game collecting. It's a blast playing games that were made before my time or that I have missed over the years. I have stuff from the Magnavox Odyssey 2 up to modern systems and enjoy them all.

It's incredible just how much video games have changed and advanced in the decades since their inception; I can't wait to see where games go from here.

If you'd like to know more about me, check out my introductory blog.