Theodor Seuss (Soice) Geisel,
born March 2nd, 1904,
was a writer and illustrator
who wrote books and books galore.
And although he called himself Soice,
he preferred kids think Mother Goose,
as they looked upon his name
and instead pronounced it Seuss.
His grandparents were immigrants
of proud German ancestry,
who settled in America,
in Springfield, Massachusetts…try???
His father owned a brewery
that Prohibition shut down,
then ran the public park system
within that very same town.
Geisel credited his mother
with instilling rhythmic flair,
as when he had trouble sleeping
she sung names of pies with care.
He showed interest in art
as a Springfield high school freshman,
then attended Dartmouth College,
joining Sigma Phi Epsilon.
The Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern
he was editor-in-chiefing
until he was caught in his room
with friends, illegally drinking.
The dean forced him to resign
from the magazine as a truce,
but Geisel kept writing for it,
simply signing his name “Seuss.”
Seuss graduated from Dartmouth
and decided to commit
to Lincoln College at Oxford
for a PhD in English lit.
There he met Helen Palmer,
who became a trusted peer,
as she convinced him to swap English
for drawing as a career.
Seuss came back to the U.S.
without earning a degree.
The first of his work printed
netting a twenty-five dollar fee.
He moved to New York City
and worked for Judge, of magazine fame;
on the first cartoon they printed,
he signed “Dr. Seuss” as his name.
For almost the next decade
he worked the advertising beat.
Then an ocean trip inspired
And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.
Named after a Springfield street
one mile from his boyhood home;
the book about a youngster watching
an imagined parade roam.
But as he sent the book out
he was met with scoff upon scoff
from twenty-seven publishers,
which seriously pissed him off.
About to burn the manuscript
a chance meeting cooled his distress.
As a former Dartmouth classmate
got it printed with Vanguard Press.
Four books later, Seuss tried his hand
at cartoons for World War II,
one passion expressed another:
his anti-Hitler point of view.
Given the opportunity
to join the U.S. militia,
he made illustrations and films
for training and propaganda.
After the war, he and his wife
moved out further and further west
to La Jolla, California,
returning to what he did best.
Seuss would write McElligot’s Pool,
Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose next,
following not too long later,
Bartholomew and the Oobleck.
If I Ran the Zoo, Scrambled Eggs Super,
and Horton Hears a Who,
then On Beyond Zebra, If I Ran the Circus
and How the Grinch Stole Christmas too.
Seuss was issued a challenge
in May of 1954
when Life published a report
on children’s reading being poor.
A man named William Spaulding
of publisher Houghton Mifflin
picked words first-graders should know
and then came to a decision.
He went to Seuss with a list
two hundred and fifty words thin;
and when asked to write a fun book
the Dr. was so very in.
A tale of King and Queen Cats
had formed his original scene,
but on the list the word ‘queen’
was nowhere to be seen.
But as he looked over the list,
he made note of the word ‘cat.’
And when he found it rhymed with ‘hat,’
asked himself, “Well, how about that?”
Later, Seuss wrote Green Eggs and Ham,
which came out of a friendly bet
that he couldn’t write a book
using a mere 50-word set.
In this time, studios wanted
to get films of Seuss books made,
but Seuss didn’t trust them much,
most of their attempts he forbade.
But when approached by Chuck Jones,
his friend from the war,
Seuss couldn’t say no to The Grinch
and the animation in store.
It quickly became a classic
shown every Christmas Day;
three decades later spawning
a live-action film with Jim Carrey.
But not every Seuss movie
would be held delightfully dear;
one of them can be credited
with killing Mike Myers’ career.
Seuss’ second wife, Audrey,
now widow, in charge of his estate,
called for a definitive end
to live-action films being made.
Thankfully, for audiences,
animation she firmly backs,
giving us Horton Hears a Who!
and, most recently, The Lorax.
Now as you may have noticed
by the word “widow” back there,
Seuss died in 1991,
the 24th of September.
He had no children of his own,
a preference that would stem
from a philosophy he held,
“You have ‘em, I’ll entertain ‘em.”
His works gained Seuss a following,
his value in literacy clear,
making an enormous impact
throughout his fifty-year career.
This fact is very telling
of how he talked to kids so well.
His secret came down to one thing:
Seuss treated them as equals.
Meaning for his books to be seen
as viewing matters through a prism,
with morals on life, politics,
Even today, captivating kids
as his stories are unfurled,
Seuss’ legacy lives in joy
as it celebrates the world.
And now, read in full
by famous actor John Lithgow,
the last book Dr. Seuss published,
Oh, the Places You’ll Go.