Take a look at the contributions of Dr. Seuss. He began writing children’s books in the 40’s and most of them are still in print and even though he has been a favorite of several generations of children, it is only in recent years that children’s literature writers and critics have even deigned to mention his name. No one has ever claimed that Seuss was a great poet, although many of his books use rhyme. Few would hold him up as one of the great illustrators yet neither can they deny his talent and capacity for creating delight in millions of readers.
A few facts about his life: Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Geisel in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts. His father was the curator of Forest Park Zoo. After graduating from Dartmouth College, Geisel launched a career in advertising, creating ads for Flit, an insecticide produced by Standard Oil. These ads consisted of a cartoon drawing of people enjoying a relaxing time reading or resting only to have a grotesque bug-like creature approach. The caption always read, “Quick, Henry, the Flit!” Looking at those cartoons today, you can see the seeds of the creatures that would later appear in his children’s books.
He started his Cat in the Hat series when he read an article by the novelist John Hersey who observed that the early readers used in schools were boring and idiotic. He was told that they had to be, because they used only words on the Dolch reading list, Seuss took 223 of those words and created a funny, zany book worth reading. Together with his wife Helen Palmer, he launched a whole line of Beginner Books some of which he wrote and illustrated. Sometimes he wrote under the name of Theo LeSieg (Geisel spelled backwards) and let others illustrate. Still others were done by other authors and illustrators but they all used the same, scholastically approved word lists, and revolutionized children’s beginning reading books. Remember that the books were really intended to be read by very new readers for whom the short, choppy sentences with repeated phrases can be reassuring.
Dr. Seuss died in California in 1991, a time of mourning for many of his readers.
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