You have brains in your head
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself any direction you choose
-an excerpt from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”
March 2, marked the 108 birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known to most as Dr. Seuss, author of children’s books like “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”
According to an article by Philip Nel on Seussville.com, Geisel began using the pseudonym “Seuss” during college after he and a group of friends were “caught drinking gin in his room. This was the spring of 1925, and the dean put them all on probation for violating the laws of Prohibition.”
Nel said, “The dean also stripped Geisel of his editorship of ‘Jack-O-Lantern,’ the college’s humor magazine where Geisel published his cartoons. To evade punishment, Geisel began publishing cartoons under aliases: L. Pasteur, D.G. Rossetti ’25, T. Seuss, and Seuss.”
After college, Nel said Geisel continued his work as a cartoonist and began signing his work under the mock-scholarly title of “Dr. Theophrastus Seuss” in 1927. He shortened that to “Dr. Seuss” in 1928.
Geisel published the first of the Dr. Seuss books, “And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street” in 1937. According to an article on the National Education Association (NEA) website, “Geisel developed the idea for his first children’s book in 1936 while on a vacation cruise. The rhythm of the ship’s engine drove the cadence to ‘And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.’”
It wasn’t until the publication of “The Cat and the Hat” in 1957 though, according to Nel, that Geisel began to gain widespread recognition as a children’s author.
Nel said “The Cat and the Hat” “sold nearly a million copies by the end of 1960. The book’s runaway success inspired Seuss, his wife Helen and Phyllis Cerf to found Beginner Books, a division of Random House that would publish books designed to help children learn to read.”
Nel wrote that Geisel once said, “‘I don’t write for children. I write for people.”
Geisel is also credited with saying, “I think I can communicate with kids because I don’t try to communicate with kids. 90 percent of the children’s books patronize the child and say there’s a difference between you and me, so you listen to this story. I, for some reason or another, don’t do that. I treat the child as an equal.”
Geisel’s books are still popular today, 21 years after his death. Some have been adapted into movies including, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas,” “Horton Hears a Who,” and “The Cat and the Hat.”
The latest film adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book “The Lorax” was released in theaters on March 2.
Facts about Dr. Seuss from Seussville.com and the NEA:
- “In 1955, Dartmouth gave him his first honorary doctorate. He would eventually receive several more honorary degrees, including one from Princeton. By pursuing his love of drawing, Ted Geisel became one of the few people to earn a Ph.D. by dropping out of graduate school.”
- “‘Green Eggs and Ham’ is his best-selling title.”
- “Of the 44 books written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss, only four are in prose.”
- “Seuss based two of his most famous characters on himself: the Grinch and the Cat in the Hat.”
- Seuss’s final book was “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” (1990).
- Seuss won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 and three Academy Awards.