Dr. Seuss:
The Great American Children’s Poet


Dr. Seuss is the pseudonym for Theodor Seuss Geisel III, Ted Geisel to
his friends. He originally thought of his pen name being pronounced zo-oice
which is the German pronunciation. He took his middle name from his
mother’s maiden name.

He was born in 1904 to Theodor Jr. and Henrietta Geisel of Springfiel
Massachusetts. Both sets of grandparents were from Germany. Theodor Jr.
was a wealthy brewer and tavern owner until the Prohibition. Then he
worked as the manager of the Springfield Zoo. Ted also had an older sister
named Marnie. He went to college at Dartmouth and graduate school at
Oxford. While at Dartmouth he got into a bit of trouble when the police
arrested him for drinking. (This was during the Prohibition.) As punishment
he was kicked off the school magazine, The Jack O’Lantern, to which he
contributed as a cartoonist. To get around the rule he began to sign his work
as Dr. Seuss. And that is why Ted Geisel became Dr. Seuss. While at Oxford
he met his first wife Helen Palmer to whom he was married for 40 years until
her death. They moved to New York. While in New York he worked drawing
cartoon advertisments for Flit, an insect repellant. It was he who coined the
phrase “Quick Henry, the Flit” which was to 1930s advertising what “Just
Do It” is to 1990s advertising. Sort of.

They later moved to La Jolla, California where Ted lived for the rest of
his life. They loved children although they were unable to have any of their
own. About five years after Helem’s death he married Audrey Stone. He died
in 1991 in his sleep at the age of 87. He wrote 57 books spanning seven
decadesfrom 1939’s And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street to 1992’s
posthumously published Daisy-Head Maizy.

He received a special Pulitzer Prize recognizing his contribution to
children’s literatur. He also received an Emmy for The Grinch Who Stole
Christmas and an Oscar for his screenplay for Gerald McBoing-Boing which
Chuck Jones (of Looney Tunes fame) animated.

Dr. Seuss completely revolutionized the field of children’s beginner
books. Before Dr. Seuss the books were of the See Dick. See Dick run. type.
With the Cat In The Hat all that changed by creating a fun, interesting story
that a young reader could read.

Ted Geisel also ran the publishing company Beginner Books (a
division of Random House). He thus was the publisher of many of his own
books. Beginner Books also fostered several other children’s writers, most
notably Stan and Jan Berenstain, creators of the Berenstain Bears. Ted had so
many demands with running the publishing company that he felt some of his
writings were not up to par. These he published under two different
pseudonyms, Rosetta Stone. and Theo. Le Seig (Geisel spelled backwards).
He did not illustrate these himself but rather let other people do that.

Why did Dr. Seuss write. For many reasons. He loved children and
wanted to entertain them and instill in them a love for reading. He wanted to
tell the stories inside him as only he could with his beautiful illustrations and
nonsense words. But perhaps the most important reason was he loved writing
the almost musical rhymes that a generation of Americans grew up with more
than he loved to do anything else.
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