I love a feel-good story out there in the book world, and this one is sure to give you the warm fuzzies. It takes place here on Vancouver Island, where you’ll find AbeBooks headquarters nestled just a hop, skip and jump away from downtown.
Fans may know that Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, developed a reputation for sending signed copies of his books to children’s hospitals, for sick children to enjoy. Over 50 years ago in 1957, Seuss sent a signed, first edition copy of his now iconic book The Cat in the Hat to a children’s hospital here in Victoria. Then called the Solarium, and now known as the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health, the centre provides a variety of short and long-term specialized health care services to children and youth with The Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island.
When Seuss sent The Cat in the Hat to the centre, he dedicated it to all the children, present and future, who would come across it while being treated there. Somehow over the years, the book vanished, only to resurface in January 2013 at a prominent Victoria auction house known as Kilshaw’s. A trail of clues and investigation revealed that at some point in the past five decades, the book had made it to a bookshop in La Jolla, California (and has the stamp to prove it), and was sold here in Victoria for 25 cents at a garage sale in 1992.
When the book ended up at Kilshaw’s auction house, serendipitously, a medical doctor attending the auction to find furniture recognized its significance. He entered into a bidding war and won – specifically to return the book to its rightful place among the children of the centre. Victoria-based AbeBooks bookseller Neil Williams lent a hand as well – as an expert in children’s books, Williams not only verified the authenticity of the signature, but also waived his fee when he learned the book’s destination. Kilshaw’s auction house did the same.
“The book somehow got lost. There is no history of when it came here. It was at least in the late 1950s or early ’60s,” said Jessica Woollard with the Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, which is on the QACCH grounds and helps support the centre. “There is no record on how it ended up across the road in a rummage sale.”
Woollard said the foundation has received some interesting donations in its time – most recently gold from old fillings from two dentists; and $1,100 from the outcome of a contest via Twitter by the owner of the Indianapolis Colts football team – but the Dr. Seuss book holds a special place in their hearts.
“We know how significant Dr. Seuss is to kids, and for a centre that helps kids with special needs this is amazing,” she said. “It’s hard to believe we have this book with his signature.”
And if you find yourself desperately wishing you had your own copy, don’t worry – AbeBooks has a wide variety of cool and collectible Dr. Seuss books and ephemera.