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Hooray for Dr. Seuss!

Creator of The Cat in the Hat and Other Classic Kids' Books

By

Cover art of Your Favorite Seuss: A Baker's Dozen by the One and Only Dr. Seuss
Random House
Children may not know his real name, but they know what they like. And what they like is Dr. Seuss. The story of Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel, is an interesting one. The impact he had on books for children is an enduring one. On March 2, school children across United States and beyond celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday, with skits, birthday cakes, and reading from his books.

Theodor Geisel was born in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1925, but rather than earning a doctorate in literature at Oxford University as he originally intended, he returned to the United States in 1927. During the next two decades he worked for several magazines, worked in advertising, and served in the army during World War II. He was stationed in Hollywood and won Oscars for his work on war documentaries.

By that time, Geisel (as Dr. Seuss) had already written several children's books, and he continued to do so. His first children's picture book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street was published in 1937. Dr. Seuss once said, "Children want the same things we want. To laugh, to be challenged, to be entertained, and delighted." Dr. Seuss' books certainly provide that for children. His witty rhymes, engaging plots, and imaginative characters add up to fun for children and adults alike.

It was his publisher who first involved Geisel in creating entertaining children's books with a limited vocabulary for beginning readers. In May 1954, Life magazine published a report about illiteracy among school children. Among the factors cited by the report was the fact that children were bored by the books that were available at the beginning reader level. His publisher sent Geisel a list of 400 words and challenged him to come up with a book that would use about 250 of the words. Geisel used 236 of the words for The Cat in the Hat, and it was an instant success.

The Dr. Seuss books definitively proved that it was possible to create engaging books with a limited vocabulary when the author/illustrator had both imagination and wit. The plots of the Dr. Seuss books are entertaining and often teach a lesson, from the importance of taking responsibility for the earth and one another to learning what is really important. With their quirky characters and clever rhymes, the Dr. Seuss books are great to read aloud.

Books by Thoedor Geisel for young readers continue to be popular for independent reading. In addition to those written as Dr. Seuss, Geisel also wrote a number of begining readers under the pseudonym Theodore Lesieg (Geisel spelled backwards). These include The Eye Book, Ten Apples Up on Top, and Many Mice of Mr. Price. Although Theodor Geisel died at the age of 87 on September 24, 1991, his books and Dr. Seuss and Theodore Lesieg did not. They continue to be popular as do books "in the style of" the original Dr. Seuss.

If you or your children have not read any of Dr. Seuss' books, you are in for a treat. I particularly recommend The Cat in the Hat, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hatches the Egg, Horton Hears a Who!, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Lorax, And To Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, and Oh, the Places You'll Go. For more about these books, see Favorite Picture Books and Beginning Readers by Dr. Seuss. Fro many more of my Dr. Seuss articles and reviews, see All About Dr. Seuss and His Books.

Theodor Geisel once said, "I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells." If your brain cells need a wake-up call, try Dr. Seuss.

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