Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!
by Catherine. H. Armstrong
|Theodore Seuss Geisel
If he were alive today, Dr. Seuss would be celebrating his 108th Birthday. Since he’s no longer with us, The National Education Association has designated this week – beginning on March 2nd – as Read Across America Week in honor of that beloved author, Theodore Seuss Geisel.
Whoa! His last name was Geisel? Why do we call him Dr. Seuss, then? Believe it or not, Dr. Seuss used to tell people that he was saving his real name for when he finally penned the “Great American Novel” that every author aspires. Probably that wasn’t true, but it sure made for a great story which was, after all, exactly what Dr. Seuss was all about.
Surprisingly, Dr. Seuss had no children of his own. When asked about this, he once responded in typical Dr. Seuss fashion – with a smile and a bit of humor saying, “You make ’em. I’ll amuse ’em.”
Seuss’ first book was, quite surprisingly, not an easy sell to publishers. After being turned down by dozens of publishers, Seuss was on the verge of throwing it away when he – completely by chance – ran into a former classmate who had recently been appointed juvenile editor of Vanguard Press. This former classmate, Mike McClintock, invited Seuss up to his office and immediately offered a contract for the overwhelmingly rejected, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street.
Dr. Seuss was often asked where he got ideas for his stories. Since the answer to this question was a mystery even to himself, Seuss would frequently answer this question with a completely invented-on-the-spot answer.
Said Seuss to one interviewer:
“This is the most asked question of any successful author. Most authors will not disclose their sourcefor fear that other, less successful authors will chisel in on their territory. However, I am willing to takethat chance. I get all my ideas in Switzerland, near the Forka Pass. There is a little town called Gletch,and two thousand feet up above Gletch there is a smaller hamlet called Uber Gletch. I go there on thefourth of August every summer to get my cuckoo clock repaired. While the cuckoo is in the hospital, Iwander around and talk to the people in the streets. They are very strange people, and I get my ideasfrom them.”
While we may never know the truth to his inspiration for many of his works, we do know that the inspiration for The Cat in the Hat came from a challenge issued by the director of Houghton Mifflin’s education division who said to Seuss, “Write me a story that first-graders can’t put down!” He gave Seuss a list of 348 words, and asked him to limit the book’s vocabulary to no more than 225 different words selected from the list. When published in March of 1957, The Cat in the Hat became an instant success and sold nearly a million copies by 1960, making it arguably the most famous and well-loved among children’s books of the 20th century.
Celebrate the birth of one of world’s most beloved writers with a loved one this week. Read to your children. Offer to read in a classroom. Or even just take a moment to regress back to your own child with a copy of Green Eggs and Ham.
For more information on Dr. Seuss, together with video and interactive games for children, visit www.seussville.com.
Nel, Phillip. Biography of Dr. Seuss. 2012. Seussville.com 29 Feb 2012, 18:23, http://www.seussville.com/#/author