March 2, 2020 would have been the 116th birthday of Theodor Seuss “Ted” Geisel aka “Dr. Seuss”. He was an American children’s author, political cartoonist, illustrator, poet animator, screenwriter and filmmaker. Whew! What a resume that is!
I have fond memories of reading Seuss’ books. I was drawn to the compact length, colourful illustrations, whimsical words and the sing-songy nature of the rhyme, although I didn’t realize this at the time. There are so many of his books I could mention and I’m sure you’ll also be able to name a few, but I think we can all agree that Dr. Seuss’ books are just funny times two. I think we’ve all experienced his creativity in some way shape or form and reading his books today brings back happy memories which was at the time all the norm.
Over the course of his life Seuss’ work has been adapted for the big screen into films, TV specials and TV series, and translated into many languages. Geisel wrote and illustrated more than 60 books under his pen name “Seuss” and sold millions of copies of these books. He also won awards including Oscars, Emmys, a Pulitzer and a Peabody. He also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was awarded an honorary degree from Whittier College.
There are some other fun facts about Geisel that are interesting too. Geisel added the “Dr.” part to his pen name because his father always wanted him to be a medical doctor. Ironically, while he was living in La Jolla, California the postal service confused him with fellow resident Dr. Hans Seuss, a nuclear physicist. Another little-known fact is that he also created works under other pen names such as “Theo Le Sieg”, which is “Geisel” spelled backwards and the name “Rosetta Stone” under which he created a book called “Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo!”.
Looking back, aside from his imagination I always wondered what else inspired Seuss to write? What’s interesting is that in the 1950s, the media reported children were not reading because books were boring. His publisher at the time (Houghton Mifflin) compiled a list of words that they felt were important for first-graders. They asked Geisel to cut the list down and to write a book only using those words. This publisher also challenged Geisel to help create books that could be read by beginning readers at the same time making books available so that kids just couldn’t put them down. From there the rest is history, so-to-speak.
There’s so much more about this creative man I could go on forever, but if you want to know more about Geisel’s life I suggest reading the 2019 biography “Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination” by Brian Jay Jones. This is a great book that explores the story behind the stories. It examines what Seuss’ biographer calls “a classic American icon.” It points out that although Geisel wrote for kids the undertone of some of his stories expressed his social and political views. It’s said that his views were underlying themes in books like “The Lorax”, “The Sneetches”, “The Butter Battle Book”, “Yertle the Turtle”, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and “Horton Hears a Who!”
This biography is quite detailed and is divided into three Parts. I suggest picking it up and alongside it read some of his children’s titles and then you can decide because …
“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you! … Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not … The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”.
— Teresa N-P