Embracing Adventure “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” ~~Hellen Keller

Celebrating Dr. Seuss on the Anniversary of His Birthday & Read Across America Day

Theodor Suess Geisel in 1957 holding The Cat in the Hat, the first of his Beginner Books. Photographed by Al Ravenna.

Today is the 111th anniversary of the birthday of Theodor Suess Geisel, more commonly known as Dr. Seuss. He was not, in fact, a doctor (though he received an honorary doctorate in 1956 from his alma mater Dartmouth). Seuss (originally pronounced Soice) was his mother’s maiden name, which he undertook as a pen name in college after getting in trouble with bootleg gin and being asked to resign as editor of Dartmouth’s humor magazine. The pen name allowed him to keep working on the magazine. He later added the Dr. because his father had wanted him to practice medicine.

Dr. Seuss is best known for having published 44 children’s books. His first book To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street was rejected 27 times, finally getting published in 1937 after he passed a friend on the street who had recently become an editor in the children’s section of a publishing house. The friend asked to look at the book, and Dr. Seuss became a published children’s author. In 1939 Seuss also published an “adult” book called The Seven Lady Godivas, a few pages of which can be found at the preceding link (contains cartoon-nudity). The book was not popular and became one of only two Dr. Seuss books ever to go out of print (the other being The Cat in the Hat Songbook). It did get re-released in 1987.

In addition to writing books, Seuss created political cartoons during WWII,  inking over 400 in the years 1940-1942. In 1943, he joined the Army as a Captain in the Signal Corps where he was part of creating morale cartoons featuring Private SNAFU.

Although Seuss is known for making up his own words in his books, one he made up is still in common usage today. If you identify with the term “nerd” you have Seuss to thank for it, as the first recorded use of it was in his 1950 book If I Ran the Zoo in which he wrote: “And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Ka-Troo And Bring Back an It-KUTCH, a PREEP, and a PROO, a NERKLE, a NERD, and a SEERSUCKER, too!”

Dr. Seuss was also a childfree figure, neither having, nor seeming to have wanted, his own children. His second wife and widow Audrey, who did have two children of her own prior to their marriage, is reported to have said that Suess was “slightly afraid” of children and is quoted as having said that he was always thinking, “What might they do next? What might they ask next?…He couldn’t just sit down on the floor and play with them.” When asked how he could connect to children without having his own, Seuss was reported to have said, “You have ’em; and I’ll entertain ’em.” That is something that Dr. Seuss is still doing to this day, a couple dozen years after his death.

Each year since 1997, Dr. Seuss’s birthday has also been the date of the National Education Association’s reading celebration called Read Across America. This year’s Read Across America book is the last one Seuss published before he died: Oh the Places You’ll Go. Because of it’s popularity as a graduation gift, it has become his best-selling book with about 300k sold each year, but it was originally meant to be read to children in utero. Of course I’m fond of it because I love to travel. In fact, when I undertook one of my 101 in 1001 tasks, to learn quilling, the first quilling project I made that wasn’t just from templates was based on one of the book’s pages: “You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.”

My Oh the Places You'll Go quilling project. At some point, I want to mount it and improve the lettering, but this was just taken on paper to give the idea of the layout.

My Oh the Places You’ll Go quilling project. I want to mount it with improved lettering at some point.

Speaking of high fliers, Dr. Seuss Enterprises is running a “Kid You’ll Move Mountains” contest with four $5000 scholarships and one $10,000 scholarship with a ride on the Goodyear Blimp for U.S. residents between the ages of 5 and 18 who excel in any area of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, & Math). If you want to enter or to nominate a child, go here. The contest starts today and ends 3/29/15 at 11:59:59 PM ET.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at some of Dr. Seuss’s life and Read Across America Day. I’ll close with a quote from the end of Oh the Places You’ll Go:

“…You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So . . . get on your way!”

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2 Thoughts on “Celebrating Dr. Seuss on the Anniversary of His Birthday & Read Across America Day

  1. Oh I love Dr. Seuss!! I have very fond memories of my mom reading me Dr. Seuss. I didn’t know many of these facts about his life.

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