Dr. Seuss (1904 – 1991)
When born: Theodor Seuss Geissel (“Ted” to his family and friends) was born in 1904, the son of German immigrants Theodor Robert Geisel and Henrietta Seuss.
Where born: In Springfield, Massachusetts, in the United States of America.
School days: Ted Geisel was teased a lot when he was a boy because of his German name. This led to his life-long hatred of racism and intolerance. After attending high school in his home town, he went to Dartmouth C0llege, a top-ranking American college in New Hampshire. During his senior year there he was editor of the school humour magazine, but after he got up to some mischief , he was cast off the paper! He very cunningly continued to contribute under the false name “Seuss” and that is how he first started using the name that later became his famous pen name, Dr Seuss. He then attended Oxford University in England, where he began but never finished a degree in English Literature.
Why and when he began writing: Dr Seuss was a cartoonist long before he wrote children’s books. It all started when his girlfriend at university noticed that he spent far more time doodling in his notebooks during lectures than taking notes! She said he’d be better off as a cartoonist than a professor, so he married her, quit his university degree and returned to America, where he began work for an advertising agency. That agency made him sign a contract which stopped him from doing most other writing – except for children’s books! And that’s why he always said he started writing for kids. His first book, And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street was rejected by dozens of publishers before it was finally accepted. He then went on to write more than 60 books for kids, including The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hears a Who! and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Why I love Dr Seuss’s books: For me, it’s very personal. Just like Dr Seuss, I just can’t stop myself from writing in rhythm and rhyme. His stories all look very simple, but they actually follow very strict rhythms, called things like “anapestic tetrameter“, “amphibrachic tetrameter” and “iambic tetrameter” . Now those are Dr Seuss-type words, if ever there were ones! And just look at the fun he has playing with words while he’s writing them! His writing is exactly the sort of writing I love doing myself! Dr Seuss said that the reason he liked to write in rhythm and rhyme was due to his mum, who used to sing him and his sister Marnie to sleep at night with old songs from her childhood in Bavaria.
The name “Seuss” should really be pronounced “Soice” to rhyme with “voice“. But Ted Geisel (his real name) decided to change the pronunciation of his pen name Dr Seuss because he thought that as a children’s writer, it would be better if his name rhymed with “Mother Goose“!
Dr Seuss and his wife were never able to have children. But he made up an imaginary daughter called “Chrysanthemum-Pearl (aged 89 months, going on 90)” and used to include her name on all his Christmas cards. He even dedicated a book to her!
He had already written many children’s books by 1954, when Life magazine published an article which stated that the reason there were so many kids who couldn’t read properly was because the books they learned from were BORING. So a publisher asked Dr Seuss to write a book for first grade kids “which they can’t put down” using only 25o simple words. Nine months later, The Cat in the Hat was born, and sold over one million copies in the first three years!
Dr Seuss was the inventor of the word “nerd” which first appears in his book “If I Ran the Zoo“.
He loved inventing mythical animals with very weird names, such as the Ruffle-Necked Sala-ma-goox, the Grickily Gractus and the Ham-ikka-Schnim-ikka-Schnam-ikka-Schnapp. What a mouthful!
“I get all my ideas in Switzerland, near the Forka Pass. There is a little known town called Gletch, and 2000 feet up above Gletch there is a smaller hamlet called Uber Gletch. I go there on the fourth of August every summer to get my cuckoo clock repaired. While the cuckoo clock is in the hospital, I wander around and talk to the people in the streets. They are very strange people, and I get my ideas from them”
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”.
“I meant what I said and I said what I meant“.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
You can’t do better than visit the official Dr Seuss website at www.seussville.com It’s absolutely fantastically funny with loads of brilliant animation and it’s FULL of fascinating information about the man and his books! You can also try www.catinthehat.org for more information.