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Dr. Seuss: Legendary Children's Book Author

Updated on February 6, 2020
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Readmikenow enjoys writing about unique and interesting people. He likes to learn about individuals who live or have lived unusual lives.

Theodor Geisel AKA Dr. Seuss
Theodor Geisel AKA Dr. Seuss

Theodor Geisel is a well-known illustrator, author, animator, poet, screenwriter, cartoonist as well as filmmaker. Writing under the pen name of Dr. Seuss, he published over 60 books. Many of his most popular children's books are considered to be some of the most popular of all time. They have sold more than 600 million copies worldwide. His books have also been translated into over 20 languages.

Young Dr. Seuss
Young Dr. Seuss

Early Years

On March 2, 1904, Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. His mother's name was Henrietta and his father's name was Theodor Robert Geisel. When he was growing up, Geisel's father managed a family brewery. The brewery had to close because of prohibition. Geisel's father then supervised the public park system in Springfield, Massachusetts. This included the local zoo. At a young age, Geisel would often spend happy times drawing the animals at the zoo and working on developing his drawing style. He graduated from Springfield Central High School in 1921.

Dr. Seuss at Dartmouth College
Dr. Seuss at Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College

After he finished high school, Geisel went to Dartmouth College. He graduated in 1925. When he attended Dartmouth College, Geisel was part of the fraternity Phi Epsilon. He also became the editor-in-chief of The Jack-O-Lantern, the Dartmouth humor magazine. This was a time of Prohibition. Geisel and some friends were caught drinking gin in a friend's room. His punishment was to resign from all his extracurricular activities including the college humor magazine. Geisel decided to continue working on the magazine in a way the college's administration wouldn’t know about it. He began signing his work with a pen name; Seuss. A college professor named W. Benfield Pressey encouraged Geisel to continue his writing. Geisel described the professor as a huge inspiration for him.

Oxford

After he graduated from Dartmouth, Geisel began studying at Lincoln College, Oxford to be an English teacher. During this time, he met his future wife Helen Palmer. She encouraged Geisel to give up pursuing a career as an English teacher. Palmer believed he should try to have a career that involved drawing. She was impressed with his notebooks and how they were always filled with fabulous drawings of animals. Geisel dropped out of Oxford and began traveling around Europe. He met with many Americans who were living in Paris. During this time, Geisel was able to experience a chance meeting with writer Ernest Hemingway.

1927 picture of Dr. Seuss and Helen Palmer
1927 picture of Dr. Seuss and Helen Palmer

Early Career

In February 1927, Geisel eventually returned to the United States. He wanted to make it as a writer or illustrator and started submitting drawings and writings to advertising agencies, magazines, and book publishers. The first time one of Geisel's cartoons appeared in a national publication was on July 16, 1927. It appeared in an issue of The Saturday Evening Post. This inspired Geisel to move to New York City. He was able to get work as an illustrator and writer for a humor magazine. Geisel's first work using his pen name Dr. Seuss was published in the humor magazine about six months after he began working there.

Dr. Seuss Name

Seuss was Geisel's mother's maiden name. He was not a doctor of anything. Starting in 1927, he began using the pen name, Dr. Seuss. The reason is based on Geisel's father always wanting him to become a physician.

Dr. Seuss bug spray advertisemet
Dr. Seuss bug spray advertisemet

Advertising

One of Geisel's cartoons for the humor magazine in 1928 mentioned a common bug spray. The wife of an advertising executive, who handled the advertising account for the bug spray, told her husband to hire Geisel. After being hired by the advertising firm, Geisel's first advertisement for the company ran on May 31, 1928. It was a huge success and Geisel began to gain notoriety for his work. This created a huge demand that resulted in his work appearing in such national publications as Liberty, Vanity Fair, Life, and others.

Boners written by Dr. Seuss
Boners written by Dr. Seuss

Book Publishing

Geisel's initial attempt at books was a collection of children's saying that he illustrated. It was called Boners and was published in 1931 by Viking Press. Geisel's first book went to the top of the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. This resulted in Geisel creating sequels to the Boners book.

Book by Dr. Seuss
Book by Dr. Seuss

Children's Books

Geisel was doing well financially. He and his wife were able to spend significant amounts of time traveling. They were returning from a European ocean voyage in 1936 when Geisel heard the ship's engines. It inspired him to write a poem that became his first children's book called And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. The manuscript for the book was rejected over 40 times. Geisel was very frustrated and was going to burn the manuscript when he met an old classmate from Dartmouth. He talked Geisel into publishing it with Vanguard Press. Geisel then wrote four more books. In 1938, he wrote and published The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. In 1939, he wrote and published The Seven Lady Godivas and The King's Stilts. In 1940, he wrote and published Horton Hatches the Egg.

Book written by Dr. Seuss
Book written by Dr. Seuss

World War II

To help the war effort, Geisel began making political cartoons for the New York City daily newspaper called PM. The cartoons he published during this time were later published in a book titled Dr. Seuss Goes to War. In 1942, Geisel began more direct support of the war effort. He started drawing posters for the War Productions Board as well as the Treasury Department. Geisel joined the Army in 1943. He was made commander of the Animation Department with the rank of Captain. It was the First Motion Picture Unit in the United States Army Air Force. He wrote films about peace in Europe when World War II was over. During his time in the U.S. Army, Geisel was awarded the Legion of Merit.

Animated short written by Dr. Seuss
Animated short written by Dr. Seuss

Screenwriter

In 1947, a film written by Geisel called Design for Death won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. In 1950 a movie named Gerald McBoing-Boing was based on an original story by Geisel. It was awarded the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Dr. Seuss working in La Jolla home
Dr. Seuss working in La Jolla home

Post World War II

After World War II, Geisel and his wife moved to La Jolla, California and purchased an old observation tower. This is where Geisel would spend several hours a day working on his writing. He would take occasional breaks to work in his garden. During this time, Random House published most of his books. It is when he wrote many of his best-known books.

*If I Ran the Zoo was published in 1950

*Horton Hears a Who! was published in 1955

*If I Ran the Circus was published in 1956

*The Cat in the Hat was published in 1957

*How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was published in 1957

*Green Eggs and Ham was published in 1960

*One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish was published in 1960

*An Amazing Alphabet Book! was published in 1963

*Hop on Pop was published in 1963

*Fox in Socks was published in 1965

*The Lorax was published in 1971

*Oh, the Places You'll Go! was published in 1990

The Cat in the Hat book written by Dr. Seuss
The Cat in the Hat book written by Dr. Seuss

Cat in the Hat

An article in a 1954 edition of life magazine published a report about children not learning to read because they didn't find their books interesting. The director of the education division at Houghton Mifflin created a list containing 348 words he believed were important to be recognized by first-graders. He challenged Geisel to decrease the list and write a book with those words. Nine months after this challenge, Geisel submitted the manuscript for Cat in the Hat using 236 of the words from the list. This book went on to be one of Geisel's top-selling books.

Newspaper clipping of Dr. Seuss death
Newspaper clipping of Dr. Seuss death

Death

On September 24, 1991, Theodor Geisel died of oral cancer. He was at his home in La Jolla, California and was 87. His body was cremated and the ashes were scattered by his family.

Dr. Seuss star on Hollywood Walk of Fame
Dr. Seuss star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Awards

Dr. Seuss was given several awards for his work.

*Caldecott Medal in 1948, 1950, 1951

*1980 Children's Literature Legacy Award

*1982 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program for The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat

*1982 Regina Medal

*1984 Pulitzer Prize Special Citations and Awards


Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss

Quotes by Dr. Seuss

Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.

A person's a person, no matter how small.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.

I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.

You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.

© 2020 Readmikenow

Comments

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    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

      Readmikenow 

      7 months ago

      Nyesha, thanks. I thought he was a fascinating man.

    • Journey * profile image

      Nyesha Pagnou MPH 

      7 months ago from USA

      This is a great hub about Dr. Seuss. Thanks for sharing it!

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

      Readmikenow 

      7 months ago

      MG, I agree he was a fascinating man. Thanks for your response.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

      Readmikenow 

      7 months ago

      Eric, thanks for sharing. How interesting to live so near him.

    • emge profile image

      MG Singh emge 

      7 months ago from Singapore

      I didn't know much about this author until I read this article. It gave me a wonderful insight into what now appears to be a fascinating man. Thank you

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      7 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      He lived just down the road here. I have never heard a negative comment about the good Doc. My kids can give parts of books by memory. Thanks for this article.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

      Readmikenow 

      7 months ago

      Pamela, thank you. I enjoyed learning about him.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 months ago from Sunny Florida

      i enjoyed reading about the life of Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss). I have read these books to my children and my grandchildren, many times over. He was certainly a talented man. Your article is excellent.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR

      Readmikenow 

      7 months ago

      Liz, thanks. He had quite an interesting life.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      7 months ago from UK

      This is a fascinating article. Books by Dr Seuss have been popular in the UK for a long time, but I knew nothing about the author until now.

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