A very happy birthday to the delightful Dr Seuss today. Today is Seuss’ 110th birthday, and at the time of this posting I am very disappointed there is still no sign of a Google Doodle commemorating this. The man who is most commonly known as Dr Seuss was actually born Theodor Seuss Geisel in 1904 and was an American writer, poet, and cartoonist. Son to Theodor Robert and Henrietta (Seuss) Geisel, he was also the grandson of German immigrants. Geisel lived in Springfield, Massachusetts, where his father ran a brewery and it was a street in this town that Geisel used as an inspiration for his first book as Dr Seuss, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Geisel is mainly known for his children’s books written under his pen name Dr Seuss, though this was not the only pen name he used, in college he had written under Dr. Theophrastus Seuss and later used Theo LeSieg as well as Rosetta Stone. Through his life Geisel published a total of 46 children’s books, his most celebrated being The Cat and the Hat, as well as Horton Hears A Who!, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, The Lorax, as well as One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish plus many others. Seuss’ works are known for their imaginative characters, rhyme, and frequent use of anapestic metre. His works have been adapted into many forms, including 11 television specials, four feature films, a Broadway musical, and four television series. As a cartoonist and illustrator, Geisel published works in advertising campaigns, and also worked as a political cartoonist in New York. In World War ll he put his skills to work in the animation department of the United States Army, and later won an Academy Award in 1947 for his film, Design for Death. It is hard to think of Geisel as anyone other than Dr Seuss, he has flooded out culture in so many ways as Seuss it is hard to see him as anyone else. He was an interesting guy though, and he contributed a lot more than just his work as Dr Seuss, but there is not doubt the impact those books have had on children as well as society as a whole. The term Grinch has become infiltrated into our culture, and many of his books and characters are as loved today as they were when they were first released. You can read more about Geisel here, and if you’re feeling particularly jovial and adventurous, check out Seussville.
When people think of Dr Seuss I think the one book that immediately comes to mind is The Cat in the Hat. I was never a huge fan of The Cat in the Hat, I liked many of his others though, I did always like Green Eggs and Ham. I like Green Eggs and Ham because it is not only a great book and very clever, but also because it has one of the best stories behind its creation, one of those great trivia stories about the origin of songs and books and all those things. The story of Green Eggs and Ham involved Seuss and his publisher Bennet Cerf, who after receiving a book of Suess’ of 225 words, made a bet he could not complete one containing only 50. The result is Green Eggs and Ham and it goes to show that you do not need a lot of words to make a story. It is a great idea; there is also an excellent Hank Green song that is similar where he sings a minute and a half song using only the same ten words. It isn’t the same as a story I grant you, but it very cool all the same. Green Eggs and Ham is a conversation between the unnamed narrator and a man known only as Sam-I-Am. Sam-I-Am continually pesters the narrator to sample the dish known as green eggs and ham, following him to various locations and asking him once more. It is a very simplistic story, but one that offers a range of great catchphrases and a joy in the fact the premise is so simple and jovial. The best part was that this simple story, containing only fifty different words, managed to get on the Banned Book list in People’s Republic of China. Much like The Lorax that people thought it was against loggers of some such nonsense, in 1965 Green Eggs and Ham was deemed to be considered a “portrayal of early Marxism”. This banning lasted until 1991 where it was lifted after the death of Seuss. Another fun fact, apparently in September 2013 it was read aloud in the US Senate as part of a Texas Senator’s 21 hour long speech advocating defunding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare). I won’t ruin the ending for you, and as engaging as the story is there isn’t a lot of character development though. We don’t get the typical back story about who Sam-I-Am is nor our mysterious narrator, but there is a suspense about the book which only adds to the enjoyment. It is a wonderful book, and I think everyone should read it, and other Seuss books, find their own favourites and read them regardless of who you are.
I wish Theodor Geisel a very happy birthday, and I hope Dr Seuss, no matter where you are whether here or Katroo, that the Birthday Bird throws an amazing party for you.
Oh, also, for those who are not sure how to pronounce Seuss, here is a rhyme to help.
“I’m sad to report, I’m sorry to say That Seuss is not pronounced at all in that way.
You choose to rhyme Seuss with goose juice and and moose juice
But that is not a pronunciation Seuss himself would choose
If he was here today and still had a voice
You would clearly hear him say “My name is Dr SOICE!”
And finally, just a quick note to say, do you know how weird it is to keep writing “I like Green Eggs and Ham” when that goes against everything you have heard!? It messes with you a small bit, it really does.