Today marks the 110th birthday of the greatest English-language author of all time. Some of you were probably thinking that title belonged to Shakespeare or Dickens, but part of my definition of a great author is the ability to understand them. I need help understanding Shakespeare, but I’ve been able to follow Dr. Seuss since before I knew the alphabet. The man was a genius.
The story of how Theodore Geisel became famous as a children’s author is interesting and not well known. A writer and advertising cartoonist, he was challenged to write a children’s book by the editor of Houghton Mifflin’s children’s division in response to a well-publicized 1954 Life magazine article on children’s illiteracy, which criticized Dick and Jane style books as too boring to interest children in reading. Geisel’s challenge was to use no more than 225 of 348 words on a standard first grade reader’s list. He nearly succeeded, taking nine months to use 236 words to create The Cat In The Hat. The rest was history.
My favorite Dr. Seuss books are the ones with moral lessons: How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1957) on the commercialization of Christmas; The Lorax (1971) on environmentalism; The Sneetches (1961) on racism; The Zax (1961) on stubbornness; and What Was I Scared Of (1961) on fear of what’s different. If complex, controversial topics like these can be turned into memorable stories that I can share with my children, perhaps that means we are making them more complicated than they really are.
I’ll leave you with just a few of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes (there are so many). Enjoy, and Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
“If you never did you should. These things are fun. And fun is good.”
“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”
“Sometimes the questions are complicated, and the answers are simple.”
“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”
“The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house,
All that cold, cold wet day.”
“Today I shall behave as if this is the day I shall be remembered.”