On March 2nd, we celebrate the one and only Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, wrote and illustrated 44 children’s books between 1937 and 1990. Additionally, he produced several films and television programs. Many of his stories reflect his experiences while growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts and many contain social as well as political messages, perhaps not always obvious to his young readers.
A Timeline of Books
- Seuss’s first book, published in 1937, was “And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street”, which explores life on a street in his cherished hometown of Springfield
- In the 1940’s, Seuss shifted away from children’s books and published 400 cartoons, which represented his opposition to the war in Europe,Adolf Hitler and fascism. Once the war ended, he returned to writing children’s books, including the famous “Horton Hears a Who” which was published in 1954. In this story, Horton the elephant discovers a tiny person living on a mere speck. The story is known for its statement: “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Dr. Seuss makes a social and even political statement here, giving a voice to those who may be otherwise unheard or marginalized. Further interpretation of this book discusses it as an allegory for the American post-war occupation of Japan.
- Two of his best- known books were published in 1957: “The Cat in the Hat” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. “The Cat in the Hat” is said to have been written in response to an article in Life magazine which claimed that children were bored by books. It is a story about rebellion by children, as is illustrated through the main characters’ interactions with the mischievous Cat in the Hat.
- Some of the titles that soon followed include “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” and theever-popular “Green Eggs and Ham”; this entire tale is told using only 50 words. In 1965, “Fox in Socks” debuted. In the story, the irrepressible Fox in Socks teaches a baffled Mr. Knox some very slick, quick tongue-twisters. Readers enjoy Dr. Seuss’s magical, playful use of words in reading about Fox and Mr. Knox. The book comes with a “warning”: “This is a book you READ ALOUD to find out just how smart your tongue is. The first time you read it, don’t go fast! This Fox is a tricky fox. He’ll try to get your tongue in trouble.”
- “The Lorax” was published in 1971, at the start ofthe environmental movement. In this story, the Lorax speaks for the Truffula trees, because they “have no tongues”. The Once-ler cuts down all of the trees and pollutes the land, forcing all of the creatures to leave. Seuss attacks corporate greed and excessive consumerism in this timeless story. Late in the story, Seuss depicts the Once-ler as showing remorse for his destructive environmental actions.
- Dr. Seuss’s final book, of 44, was “Oh, the PlacesYou’ll Go”, published in 1990. It celebrates the boundless possibilities and opportunities which await each and every one of us. “You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So…get on your way!”’ illustrates the positive message offered to us by Dr. Seuss in his last book. It is a popular gift for high school and college graduates as they begin new journeys upon graduating.
Photo Credit: PBS Newshour
It should be noted that in addition to being a genius with words and illustrations, Dr. Seuss produced many colorful paintings and drawings during his lifetime, including a rare series in the 1930’s from his art-deco period. These paintings featured a heavy black background, designed to visually force the colorful, central images forward. Seuss was gifted in his ability to tell stories, both through language and illustration.
Seuss’s books have been translated and published in more than 20 languages. His honors include two Academy Awards, two Emmy awards, a Peabody Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal and the Pulitzer Prize. His whimsical, rhyming words transcend time, as do his many inspiring messages.
The Art of Dr. Seuss-