The Story of Dr. Seuss

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Dr. Seuss, one of the most famous authors of children’s books ever, began his writing career as a cartoonist. He wrote articles for the magazine, too, but not many people wanted to read them.

The idea for the first book he wrote came to him while listening to the rhythm of a ship’s engines. This was And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street. A total of 27 publishers rejected this book. Finally, a friend published it for him. Sales weren’t very good.

When World War II began, he joined the U.S. Army and was sent to Hollywood, where he made documentaries. He even won some Oscars for the work he did.

The story of Dr. Seuss began in 1954. Theodore Geisel—for that was his real name—had read a magazine reporting claiming that children were not learning because the books that they commonly read were boring. Because of his success writing during the War, Geisel was now respected as a writer. A publisher sent him a list of 400 words that he thought were important for children to know. The publisher asked Geisel to cut the list to 250 and then write a book using only those words. The result was The Cat in the Hat, which used 220 words.

Unlike his first book, The Cat in the Hat brought Geisel instant fame. He called himself Dr. Seuss, and he was off and running.

In 1960, well-known writer Bennett Cerf made a bet with Dr. Seuss. The bet was that Seuss couldn’t write a book using just 50 words. Seuss took the bet. The result was Green Eggs and Ham, another instant success.

After that, just about everything Dr. Seuss wrote was a hit. Remember Horton Hears a Who? How about Fox in Socks? Perhaps How the Grinch Stole Christmas rings a bell.

One of the things that Dr. Seuss did was use rhymes in his book. This goes all the way back to when he was a young child. His mother would read to her children at bedtime, and she chanted rhymes to them to help them sleep. Seuss remembered this when he started writing children’s books.

He sometimes used his books to teach lessons. Yertle the Turtle, for example, told the story of one turtle who wouldn’t “fall in line,” and as a result brought about the downfall of the mighty Yertle, who depended on all the other turtles for his power. The Lorax, a memorable character in another book of the same name, spoke out against big business cutting down trees.

Dr. Seuss is a household name now. In all, he wrote more than 50 books.

Geisel died in 1991. His fame lives on.

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David White