Probably the foremost children’s book author of the 20th century died on September 24, 1991, at the age of 87. Dr. Seuss, Theodor Geisel, published 46 books for children including a new kind of first reader that sent Dick and Jane into well-deserved retirement.
Dr. Seuss was born in the early 1920s, when Geisel (born in 1904) was attending Dartmouth College. Among his pursuits there was work on the humor magazine Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern, for which he rose to the rank of editor-in-chief. However, one dark day at Dartmouth, Geisel was caught drinking gin at a party in his room. This was frowned upon by the Dean, who insisted that he resign from all extracurricular activities, including the college humor magazine. To continue work on the Jack-O-Lantern surreptitiously, Geisel began signing his work with the pen name Dr. Theophrastus Seuss. (Other pseudonyms included Theo LeSieg and Rosetta Stone.
Geisel had a successful career in advertising (Flit, Standard Oil, U.S. Army) and as an editorial cartoonist denouncing fascists, racists, isolationists and Republicans. But it was his children’s books that gave him lasting recognition. His first, published in 1937, was And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street. He followed with such celebrated books as The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, Horton Hatches the Egg, Horton Hears a Who!, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. In 1954, Geisel was challenged to write a book using only 250 words appropriate to beginning readers, “a book children can’t put down.” Nine months later, using 236 of the words given to him, Geisel completed The Cat in the Hat.
Geisel made a point of not beginning the writing of his stories with a moral in mind. “Kids can see a moral coming a mile off,” he said.
Numerous adaptations of his work have been created, including 11 television specials, four feature films, a Broadway musical and four television series.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
“I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one-hundred percent!”
“If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good.”
“They say I’m old-fashioned, and live in the past, but sometimes I think progress progresses too fast!”
“I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam-I-Am.”
“Writing simply means no dependent clauses, no dangling things, no flashbacks, and keeping the subject near the predicate. We throw in as many fresh words we can get away with. Simple, short sentences don’t always work. You have to do tricks with pacing, alternate long sentences with short, to keep it vital and alive…. Virtually every page is a cliffhanger–you’ve got to force them to turn it.”
“Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.”