Today was Read Across America Day, in honor of one of our most beloved authors, Dr. Seuss. He would have been 111 today, which, of course, immediately reminded me of Bilbo’s eleventy first birthday party beneath the Party Tree in the Shire. I participated today by reading the one Dr. Seuss book that I have in the house….and by reading in a couple of other books this evening.
Curiosity about this unique individual led me to a Google search on the internet. Born March 2, 1904, in Springfield MA, Theodor Seuss Geisel grew up with his parents, and his grandparents who were all German immigrants. His middle name, which later became the pen name he wrote under, was actually pronounced zoice…which rhymes with the word voice. He changed the pronunciation later to rhyme with goose, as a nod to that icon of children’s verse, Mother Goose.
As a young adult, Theodor worked as a cartoonist and illustrator, selling his first cartoon to the Saturday Evening Post in 1927. Shortly after, he took a job as a writer and illustrator for a humor magazine called Judge, in New York City. It was for this publication that he first signed his work “Dr. Seuss”. Theodor and his wife, Helen, never had children. He was quoted later as saying, “You have ‘em, and I’ll entertain ’em.” The couple traveled extensively and it was while homeward bound on an ocean liner that Theodor, inspired by the rhythm of the ship’s engines, penned a poem that became his first children’s story, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. According to Theodor, the book was rejected between 20 – 43 times. He was on his way home to burn the manuscript when a “chance” meeting with an old Dartmouth classmate led to it being published by Vanguard Press.
Although he wrote other works, and published many cartoons, Dr. Seuss is most known for his children’s books that incorporates whimsical poetry with made up words, and creatures to match those strange names. He is best known for such works as Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, Green Eggs and Ham, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Horton Hears a Who. Many of his books were translated into animated films and later live action movies. He helped to pioneer the Beginner Books for beginning readers, using words from a list of 250 that were considered important for first graders to know. The Cat in the Hat was his first Beginner Book.
I grew up reading Dr. Seuss, as did my kids. My daughter Adriel learned to read with the help of his well known book, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Reading through that book this evening, which has a publication date of 1960, I was reminded of her excitement the first time she read the book to me, instead of the other way around. Dr. Seuss continues to be an inspiration, and is one of the most often quoted authors. I’ve included a couple of my favorites below. He once said, “Today I shall behave as if this is the day I’ll be remembered.” He certainly has been remembered, with great respect and fondness. Those words are a good reminder for us all!