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Theodor Seuss Geisel (March 2, 1904 — September 24, 1991) better known as Ted Geisel, Theo LeSieg and Dr. Seuss was an American writer and cartoonist, best known for his classic children's books under the pen name Dr. Seuss, including The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish. His books have become staples for many children and their parents. Among Dr. Seuss' trademarks were his rhyming text and his outlandish creatures. He wrote and illustrated 44 children's books. Many of his books have been adapted into short animated programs. His books The Cat in the Hat, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Horton Hears a Who! and The Lorax have been adapted into feature films, as well as the musical, "Seussical", which is an adaptation of many of his books combined.

Life and career

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2, 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts]][1] to Henrietta Seuss and Theodor Robert Geisel.[2] He had two sisters, Marnie and Henrietta. Henrietta died of pneumonia at 18 months old. He attended Fremont Intermediate School from age 12 to age 14. His father was a parks superintendent in charge of Forest Park (Springfield), a large park that included a zoo and was located three blocks from a library. Both Geisel's father and grandfather were brewmasters in Springfield, which may have influenced his views on Prohibition. As a freshman member of the Dartmouth College class of 1925, he became a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon. He also joined the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern, eventually rising to the rank of editor-in-chief. (He took over the post from his close friend, author Norman MacLean.) However, after Geisel was caught throwing a drinking party (and thereby violating Prohibition laws), the school insisted that he resign from all extracurricular activities. In order to continue his work on the Jack-O-Lantern without the administration's knowledge, Geisel began signing his work with the pen name "Seuss" (which was both his middle name and his mother's maiden name). His first work signed as "Dr. Seuss" appeared after he graduated, six months into his work for humor magazine The Judge where his weekly feature Birdsies and Beasties appeared.[3] Seuss's family, having emigrated from Germany, would have pronounced their name as "zoice", the standard pronunciation in German (according to census, Geisel's mother was born in Massachusetts, and it was her parents who were the immigrants). Alexander Liang, who served with Geisel on the staff of the Jack-O- Lantern and was later a professor at Dartmouth, illustrated this point.

Though Geisel himself has been quoted as saying "Seuss -- rhymes with voice", the name is almost universally pronounced in English with an initial s sound and rhyming with "juice".[4] Geisel also used the pen name Theo. LeSieg (Geisel spelled backwards) for books he wrote but others illustrated.

He entered Lincoln College, Oxford, intending to earn a D.Phil in literature. At Oxford he met his future wife Helen Palmer; he married her in 1927, and returned to the United States without earning the degree. The "Dr." in his pen name is an acknowledgment of his father's unfulfilled hopes that Seuss would earn a doctorate at Oxford.

He began submitting humorous articles and illustrations to Judge, The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Vanity Fair, and Liberty. One notable "Technocracy Number" made fun of the Technocracy movement and featured satirical rhymes at the expense of Frederick Soddy. He became nationally famous from his advertisements for Flit, a common insecticide at the time. His slogan, "Quick, Henry, the Flit!" became a popular catchphrase. Geisel supported himself and his wife through the Great Depression by drawing advertising for General Electric, NBC, Standard Oil, and many other companies. He also wrote and drew a short-lived comic strip called Hejji in 1935.[3]

In 1937, while Seuss was returning from an ocean voyage to Europe, the rhythm of the ship's engines inspired the poem that became his first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Seuss wrote three more children's books before World War II (see list of works below), two of which are, atypically for him, in prose.

As World War II began, Dr. Seuss turned to political cartoons, drawing over 400 in two years as editorial cartoonist for the left-wing New York City daily newspaper, PM. Dr. Seuss' political cartoons, later published in Dr. Seuss Goes to War, opposed the viciousness of Hitler and Mussolini and were highly critical of isolationists, most notably Charles Lindbergh, who opposed American entry into the war. One cartoon[5] depicted all Japanese Americans as latent traitors or fifth-columnists, while at the same time other cartoons deplored the racism at home against Jews and blacks that harmed the war effort. His cartoons were strongly supportive of President Roosevelt's conduct of the war, combining the usual exhortations to ration and contribute to the war effort with frequent attacks on Congress (especially the Republican Party), parts of the press (such as the New York Daily News and Chicago Tribune), and others for criticism of Roosevelt, criticism of aid to the Soviet Union, investigation of suspected Communists, and other offenses that he depicted as leading to disunity and helping the Nazis, intentionally or inadvertently. In 1942, Dr. Seuss turned his energies to direct support of the U.S. war effort. First, he worked drawing posters for the United States Department of the Treasury Department and the War Production Board. Then, in 1943, he joined the Army and was commander of the Animation Dept of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces, where he wrote films that included Your Job in Germany, a 1945 propaganda film about peace in Europe after World War II, Design for Death, a study of Japanese culture that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1947, and the Private Snafu series of adult army training films. While in the Army, he was awarded the Legion of Merit. Dr. Seuss' non-military films from around this time were also well-received; Gerald McBoing-Boing won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Animated) in 1950.

Despite his numerous awards, Dr. Seuss never won the Caldecott Medal nor the Newbery. Three of his titles were chosen as Caldecott runners-up (now referred to as Caldecott Honor books): McElligot's Pool (1947), Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949), and If I Ran the Zoo (1950).

After the war, Dr. Seuss and his wife moved to La Jolla, California. Returning to children's books, he wrote what many consider to be his finest works, including such favorites as If I Ran the Zoo, (1950), Scrambled Eggs Super! (1953), On Beyond Zebra! (1955), If I Ran the Circus (1956), and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957).

At the same time, an important development occurred that influenced much of Seuss' later work. In May 1954, Life magazine published a report on illiteracy among school children, which concluded that children were not learning to read because their books were boring. Accordingly, Seuss' publisher made up a list of 400 words he felt were important and asked Dr. Seuss to cut the list to 250 words and write a book using only those words. Nine months later, Seuss, using 220 of the words given to him, completed The Cat in the Hat. This book was a tour de force—it retained the drawing style, verse rhythms, and all the imaginative power of Seuss' earlier works, but because of its simplified vocabulary could be read by beginning readers. A rumor exists, that in 1960, Bennett Cerf bet Dr. Seuss $50 that he couldn't write an entire book using only fifty words. The result was supposedly Green Eggs and Ham. The additional rumor that Cerf never paid Seuss the $50 has never been proven and is most likely untrue. These books achieved significant international success and remain very popular.

Dr. Seuss went on to write many other children's books, both in his new simplified-vocabulary manner (sold as "Beginner Books") and in his older, more elaborate style. In 1982 Dr. Seuss wrote "Hunches in Bunches". The Beginner Books were not easy for Seuss, and reportedly he labored for months crafting them.

At various times Seuss also wrote books for adults that used the same style of verse and pictures: The Seven Lady Godivas; Oh, The Places You'll Go!; and You're Only Old Once.

On October 23, 1967, during a very difficult illness, Dr. Seuss' wife, Helen Palmer Geisel, committed suicide. Seuss married Audrey Stone Dimond on June 21, 1968. Seuss himself died, following several years of illness, in La Jolla, California on September 24, 1991.

On December 1, 1995 UCSD's University Library Building was renamed Geisel Library in honor of Audrey and Seuss for the generous contributions they have made to the library and their devotion to improving literacy.[6]

Dr. Seuss was frequently confused, by the US Postal Service among others, with Dr. Suess (Hans Suess), his contemporary living in the same locality, La Jolla. Their names have been linked together posthumously: the personal papers of Hans Suess are housed in the Geisel Library at UC San Diego.[1]

In 2002, the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden opened in his birthplace of Springfield, Massachusetts; it features sculptures of Dr. Seuss and of many of his characters.

Though he devoted most of his life to writing children's books, he never had any children himself.

Artwork

Dr. Seuss' earlier artwork often employed the shaded texture of pencil drawings or watercolors, but in children's books of the postwar period he generally employed the starker medium of pen and ink, normally using just black, white, and one or two colors. Later books such as The Lorax used more colors.

Seuss' figures are often rounded and somewhat droopy. This is true, for instance, of the faces of the Grinch and of the Cat in the Hat. It is also true of virtually all buildings and machinery that Seuss drew: although these objects abound in straight lines in real life, for buildings, this could be accomplished in part through choice of architecture. For machines, for example, If I Ran the Circus includes a droopy hoisting crane and a droopy steam calliope.

Seuss evidently enjoyed drawing architecturally elaborate objects. His endlessly varied (but never rectilinear) palaces, ramps, platforms, and free-standing stairways are among his most evocative creations. Seuss also drew elaborate imaginary machines, of which the Audio-Telly-O-Tally-O-Count, from Dr. Seuss' Sleep Book, is one example. Seuss also liked drawing outlandish arrangements of feathers or fur, for example, the 500th hat of Bartholomew Cubbins, the tail of Gertrude McFuzz, and the pet for girls who like to brush and comb, in One Fish Two Fish.

Dr. Seuss' images often convey motion vividly. He was fond of a sort of "voilà" gesture, in which the hand flips outward, spreading the fingers slightly backward with the thumb up; this is done by Ish, for instance, in One Fish Two Fish when he creates fish (who perform the gesture themselves with their fins), in the introduction of the various acts of If I Ran the Circus, and in the introduction of the Little Cats in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. He was also fond of drawing hands with interlocked fingers, which looked as though the character was twiddling their thumbs.

Seuss also follows the cartoon tradition of showing motion with lines, for instance in the sweeping lines that accompany Sneelock's final dive in If I Ran the Circus. Cartoonist's lines are also used to illustrate the action of the senses (sight, smell, and hearing) in The Big Brag and even of thought, as in the moment when the Grinch conceives his awful idea.

Recurring images

Seuss' early work in advertising and editorial cartooning produced sketches that received more perfect realization later in the children's books. Often, the expressive use to which Seuss put an image later on was quite different from the original.[7]

  • An editorial cartoon of July 16, 1941[8] depicts a whale resting on the top of a mountain, as a parody of American isolationists, especially Charles Lindbergh. This was later rendered (with no apparent political content) as the Wumbus of On Beyond Zebra (1955). Seussian whales (cheerful and balloon-shaped, with long eyelashes) also occur in McElligot's Pool, If I Ran the Circus, and other books.
  • Another editorial cartoon from 1941[9] shows a long cow with many legs and udders, representing the conquered nations of Europe being milked by Adolf Hitler. This later became the Umbus of On Beyond Zebra.
  • The tower of turtles in a 1942 editorial cartoon[10] prefigures a similar tower in Yertle the Turtle. This theme also appeared in a Judge cartoon as one letter of a hieroglypic message, and in Seuss' short-lived comic strip Hejji. Seuss once stated that Yertle the Turtle was Adolf Hitler.[11]
  • Little cats A B and C (as well as the rest of the alphabet) who spring from each other's hats appeared in a Ford ad.
  • The connected beards in Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? appear frequently in Dr. Seuss' work, most notably in Hejii, which featured two goats joined at the beard, The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T, which featured two roller-skating guards joined at the beard, and a political cartoon in which Nazism and the America First movement are portrayed as "the men with the Siamese Beard."
  • Seuss' earliest elephants were for advertising and had somewhat wrinkly ears, much as real elephants do.[12] With And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street (1937) and Horton Hatches the Egg (1940), the ears became more stylized, somewhat like angel wings and thus appropriate to the saintly Horton. During World War II, the elephant image appeared as an emblem for India in four editorial cartoons.[13] Horton and similar elephants appear frequently in the postwar children's books.
  • While drawing advertisements for Flit, Seuss became adept at drawing insects with huge stingers,[14] shaped like a gentle S-curve and with a sharp end that included a rearward-pointing barb on its lower side. Their facial expressions depict gleeful malevolence. These insects were later rendered in an editorial cartoon as a swarm of Allied aircraft[15] (1942), and again as the Sneedle of On Beond Zebra, and yet again as the Skritz in I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew.

Adaptations of Dr. Seuss' work

For most of his career, Dr. Seuss was reluctant to have his characters marketed in contexts outside of his own books. However, he did allow a few animated cartoons, an art form in which he himself had gained experience during the Second World War.

Seuss' first cartoon adaptation was Horton Hatches the Egg in 1942. It was animated at Warner Brothers, the same studio for which he co-created Private Snafu. Directed by Robert Clampett, Horton was presented as part of the Looney Tunes series. It included a number of gags not present in the original narrative, such as a fish committing suicide and the lead antagonist's affinity for Katharine Hepburn.

In 1966, Seuss authorized the eminent cartoon artist Chuck Jones, his friend and former colleague from the war, to make a cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Seuss, as "Ted Geisel", is credited as a co-producer along with Jones. This cartoon was very faithful to the original book. It is considered a classic by many to this day, and is in the large catalog of annual Christmas television specials. Several more animated specials based on Seuss' work followed, including cartoon versions of Horton Hears a Who!, The Lorax and The Cat in the Hat in 1971, but the latter was considered less successful.

Toward the end of his life, Seuss seems to have relaxed his policy, and several other cartoons and toys were made featuring his characters, usually the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch. A Soviet paint-on-glass-animated short film called Welcome (an adaptation of Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose) was made in 1986. The last adaptation of Seuss' works before he died was The Butter Battle Book, a TV special based on the book of the same name, directed by adult animation legend Ralph Bakshi. Seuss himself called the special "the most faithful adaptation of his work." When Seuss died of cancer at the age of 87 in 1991, his widow Audrey Geisel was placed in charge of all licensing matters. She approved a live-action film version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! starring Jim Carrey, as well as a Seuss-themed Broadway musical called Seussical (both released in 2000). "The Grinch" has had limited engagement runs on Broadway during the Christmas season, after premiering in 1998 (under the title How the Grinch Stole Christmas!) at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, where it has become a Christmas tradition. A live-action film based on The Cat in the Hat was released in 2003, featuring Mike Myers as the title character. Audrey Geisel was said to have been very vocal in her dislike of the film, and is believed to have said there would be no further live-action adaptations of Seuss' books.[16] A CGI animated film adaptation of Horton Hears a Who! opened on March 14, 2008. Dr. Seuss' books and characters also now appear in an amusement park: the Seuss Landing 'island' at the Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, Florida. Product tie-ins (cereal boxes, and so on) have also been implemented. To stay true to the books, there is not one single straight line in all of Seuss Landing: everything curves around.

Best-selling books

In 2000, Publishers Weekly compiled a list of the best-selling children's books of all time (hardcover and softcover lists were printed separately).

No. Book First
published
All-time rank
hardcover children's books
Notes
1 Green Eggs and Ham 1960 #4 released on audiobook, read by Adrian Edmondson
2 The Cat in the Hat 1957 #9 approximately 7.2 million copies sold as of 2000

released on audiobook, read by Adrian Edmondson

3 One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish 1960 #13 released on audiobook, read by Rik Mayall
4 Hop on Pop 1963 #16
5 Oh, the Places You'll Go! 1990 #17
6 Dr. Seuss's ABC 1960 #18 released on audiobook, read by Rik Mayall
7 The Cat in the Hat Comes Back 1958 #26 released on audiobook, read by Adrian Edmondson
8 Fox in Socks 1965 #31 released on audiobook, read by Adrian Edmondson
9 How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 1957 #35 released on audiobook, read by Rik Mayall
10 My Book about ME 1969 #40 Illustrated by Roy McKie
11 I Can Read with My Eyes Shut! 1978 #58
12 Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! 1975 #65
13 Oh Say Can You Say? 1979 #85
14 There's a Wocket in My Pocket! 1974 #93
15 Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? 1996 #98 board book
16 Dr. Seuss's ABC 1996 #99 board book
17 Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? 1970 #101
18 Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories 1958 #125
19 The Sneetches and Other Stories 1961 #129
20 Ten Apples up on Top! 1961 #130 listed as Theo. LeSieg;
illustrated by Roy McKie
21 I Am NOT Going to Get Up Today! 1987 #135 illustrated by James Stevenson
22 Horton Hatches the Egg 1940 #138
23 Happy Birthday to You! 1959 #139
24 Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book 1962 #140

Omnibus volumes

  • A Hatfull of Seuss: Five Favorite Dr. Seuss Stories
    • Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949), If I Ran the Zoo (1950), Horton Hears a Who! (1954), The Sneetches and Other Stories (1961), and Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book (1962)
  • Your Favorite Seuss : A Baker's Dozen by the One and Only Dr. Seuss Molly Leach (Designer)
    • And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, Horton Hears a Who!, McElligot's Pool, If I Ran the Zoo, Happy Birthday to You!, Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book, Yertle the Turtle, The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Green Eggs and Ham, The Lorax, The Sneetches, and Oh, the Places You'll Go!
  • Six By Seuss: A Treasury of Dr. Seuss Classics
    • And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, Horton Hatches the Egg, Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Lorax

Writing as Theo. LeSieg

LeSieg is Dr. Seuss's last name, Geisel, spelled backwards.

Writing as Rosetta Stone

Film, television, and theater adaptations

Further reading

  • Theodor Seuss Geisel: The Early Works, Volume 1 (Checker Book Publishing, 2005; ISBN 1-933160-01-2), Early Works Volume 1 is the first of a series collecting various political cartoons, advertisements, and various images drawn by Geisel long before he had written any of his world-famous books.
  • Dr. Seuss From Then to Now (New York: Random House, 1987; ISBN 0-394-89268-2) is a biographical retrospective published for the exhibit of the same title at the San Diego Museum of Art
  • Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel,a biography by close friends Judith and Neil Morgan (1995, Random House)
  • The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss by Audrey Geisel (New York: Random House, 1995; ISBN 0-679-43448-8) contains many full-color reproductions of Geisel's private, previously unpublished artwork.
  • Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel, a selection with commentary by Richard Minnear (New Press, 2001; ISBN 1-56584-704-0).
  • Oh, the Places He Went, a story about Dr. Seuss by Maryann Weidt (Carolrhoda Books, 1995; ISBN 0-87614-627-2)
  • The Seuss, the Whole Seuss and Nothing But the Seuss: A Visual Biography of Theodor Seuss Geisel by Charles Cohen (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2004; ISBN 0-375-82248-8).
  • Dr. Seuss: American Icon by Philip Nel (Continuum Publishing, 2004; ISBN 0-8264-1434-6)
  • The Annotated Cat: Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats by Philip Nel (Random House, 2007; ISBN 978-0-375-83369-4)
  • The Tough Coughs as he Ploughs the Dough: Early Writings and Cartoons by Dr. Seuss, edited and with an introduction by Richard Marschall (also includes autobiographical material); ISBN 0-688-06548-1
  • The Boy on Fairfield Street by Kathleen Krull. It tells about the childhood of Dr. Seuss and shows the sources of many of his inspirations.

See also

Beginner books and audio cassettes


References

Template:Reflist

External links


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