Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

"So the writer who breeds more words than he needs is making a chore for the writer who reads."
Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

By now, every Who down in Whoville has surely heard of the amazing Dr. Seuss, the man who twisted and turned words this way and that, making reading fun again. His books, from Horton Hears a Who to Green Eggs and Ham to How the Grinch Stole Christmas are perennial favorites.

But I didn't know until I read his biography page that there are a few grown-up tales behind these children's stories. It seems the late Theodor Geisel wasn't just a children's writer. He was a writer's writer. He took on issues and challenges. He worked hard to make his writing look effortless.

Green Eggs and Ham, for instance, was written on a bet that he couldn't write a book using only 50 words. (He succeeded). He wrote Cat in the Hat after there was there was outcry that kids didn't read because books were boring.

Other books take on world issues - The Lorax, obviously, is about environmentalism, and the Grinch, most could guess, is about anti-materialism. But I didn't know that The Butter Battle was about the arms race - although thinking back, I can see it, and Yertle the Turtle is a tale about anti-authoritarianism.(I may have to reread that one).

Reading Dr. Seuss as a child (and an adult) I never knew all that. I just knew I loved his books. I still do. They're fun to listen to, and they're actually hilarious to read out loud. My kids love them, and I love reading them. Horton, that crazy elephant, has actually brought me to tears more than once with his loyalty to that silly egg, and I don't cry about just anything, you know.

So here's one more bit of trivia about Dr. Seuss - and this might be the one thing that surprised me the most. His first book, And to Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street, was rejected by publishers 27 times.


  1. Great post. That 27 rejections is something else. But probably pretty normal for most authors. It's amazing how his books and writing seems more meaningful to us as adults. A few days ago, Liz had to do her first "public reading" at age 5, and we did 10 Aples Up On Top, and it went quite well. Tomorrow, she's supposed to wear wacky hair day for Seuss. And, then it's dress like your fav. Seuss character and so on all week. But I'm glad the schools spend so much time on him.

  2. Hi, Lisa!

    Wow - Congrats to Liz on her reading!! That is a lot of Seuss, but it does sound fun. We had "Reading Across America" night tonight in honor of Seuss' birthday - where you're supposed to turn off the television and read with the kids, so we dug out all the Dr. Seuss books. It was really fun. I thought Sean would have Wii withdrawal, but he did quite well!

    I agree that Seuss' books transcend ages - just think how many times you've seen "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" given to a graduate. I think I might have even given one or two myself . . . : )