Dr. Seuss characters live on…
National Read Across America Day
By Lisa Nicklanovich; photos by Shaun Kernahan
March 2 has become National Read Across America Day in honor of Theodor Seuss “Ted” Geisel, or Dr. Seuss. The American children’s author, political cartoonist, illustrator, poet, animator and filmmaker was born March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Geisel adopted his pen name of Seuss, which is his mother’s maiden name, as a signature to his cartoons while he was a college student. The “Doctor” was added because his father had always wanted him to practice medicine.
A graduate of Dartmouth, Geisel did post-graduate work in Oxford, Vienna, and Paris with the intention of becoming a professor of history. Instead, he wrote and illustrated more than 60 books, which are some of the most popular children’s books of all time. Dr. Seuss books have sold more than 600 million copies and have been translated into more than 20 languages. Films and TV specials brought his books to the screen for many eager viewers.
Geisel was an illustrator for Vanity Fair, Life magazine and other publications, and worked as an illustrator for advertising campaigns. His first book in 1937, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, was based on Mulberry Street in Springfield, near Geisel’s childhood home. The book was allegedly rejected by many publishers. Geisel was supposedly walking home to burn the manuscript for the book when a chance encounter with an old Dartmouth classmate led to its publication. The book jumped into the best-seller lists, was dramatized on the radio more than a hundred times, was made into an animated cartoon, and was presented in the form of a symphony at Carnegie Hall.
Classics such as Horton Hears a Who!, The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, One fish two fish red fish blue fish, and Green Eggs and Ham were written between 1955 to 1960, yet they are still enjoyed by children and adults today. His last book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! was published the year before his death in 1991 and is still a very popular graduation gift.
After Geisel died of cancer at the age of 87, his widow Audrey was placed in charge of all licensing matters. She approved a live-action feature-film version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey, as well as a Seuss-themed Broadway musical called Seussical. Both premiered in 2000.
Although Geisel switched to the anglicized pronunciation of his pen name, with Seuss rhyming with “deuce”, originally, it was pronounced to rhyme with “voice.” Geisel never had children of his own and is quoted as saying, “You have ‘em; I’ll entertain ‘em.”