Theodor Seuss Geisel — known as “Ted” to his family and friends — is famous for his whimsical rhyming books that inspire both young and old alike. Dr. Seuss (pronounced in Bavaria as “Zoice”) began his career as an advertiser and a cartoonist. His works are known for imaginative characters, rhyme, and frequent use of trisyllabic meter. Of the forty-four books that he personally wrote and illustrated, only four are in prose (non-rhyming). He was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize in 1984.
Dr. Seuss’ success was not immediate. His first children’s book, a sort of ABC of fanciful creatures, was written in 1931, but no one wanted to publish it. It took him to his 13th children’s book to achieve one of his most famous works, The Cat in the Hat, proving that persistence can pay off. Published in March of 1957, The Cat in the Hat sold nearly a million copies by the end of 1960.
People often asked Dr. Seuss how he, a childless person, could write so well for children. His standard response was, “You make ’em. I’ll amuse ’em.” He had the desire to motivate and to teach through his work. His purpose for writing The Cat in the Hat stemmed from his worry that children weren’t learning to read. Although he did not start writing children’s books with this goal, he eventually became America’s best-known reading teacher.
Dr. Seuss was challenged by the director of Houghton Mifflin’s education division to write him “a story that first-graders can’t put down!” The extra twist? Limit the book’s vocabulary to no more than 225 different words, chosen from a list of 348. And thus greatness was born.
Later, another publisher bet him that he couldn’t write a book that used fifty or fewer words. Dr. Seuss took the challenge in stride and produced Green Eggs and Ham, his best-selling title. The Cat in the Hat is his second best-selling, followed by two more Beginner Books: One fish two fish red fish blue fish (1960) and Hop on Pop (1963).
But Dr. Seuss did not just want to teach children how to read, he also hoped to teach them how to think. He wanted to nurture that potential for good in his post-war publications, which included Horton Hears a Who!, Yertle the Turtle, The Sneetches, The Lorax, and The Butter Battle Book.
Dr. Seuss’ birthday is March 2, and has been deemed National Read Across America Day, the National Education Association’s annual initiative on reading.
What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book? Tell us in the comments section!