Dr. Seuss …
Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991) was an American author, political cartoonist, poet, animator, book publisher, and artist, best known for authoring children’s books under the pen name Dr. Seuss. His work includes several of the most popular children’s books of all time, selling over 600 million copies and being translated into more than 20 languages by the time of his death.
Geisel adopted his “Dr. Seuss” pen name while he was still at university. He left in 1927 to begin a career as an illustrator and cartoonist. He worked for Vanity Fair, Life, and various other publications. He published his first children’s book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street in 1937. During World War II, he worked in an animation department of the United States Army where he produced several short films, including Design for Death, which later won the 1947 Academy Award for Documentary Feature.
After the war, Geisel focused on children’s books, writing classics such as If I Ran the Zoo (1950), Horton Hears a Who! (1955), If I Ran the Circus (1956), The Cat in the Hat (1957), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957), and Green Eggs and Ham (1960). He published over 60 books during his career, which have spawned numerous adaptations, including 11 television specials, four feature films, a Broadway musical, and four television series. He won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958 for Horton Hatches the Egg and again in 1961 for And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Geisel’s birthday, March 2, has been adopted as the annual date for National Read Across America Day, an initiative on reading created by the National Education Association.
In 1936, he was returning from an ocean voyage to Europe when 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.
Based on varied accounts, it was rejected by between 20 and 43 publishers. According to Geisel, he was walking home to burn the manuscript when a chance encounter with an old college friend led to its publication by Vanguard Press.
On where he gets his ideas:
“I get all my ideas in Switzerland near the Forka Pass. There is a little town called Gletch, and two thousand feet up above Gletch there is a smaller hamlet called Über Gletch. I go there on the fourth of August every summer to get my cuckoo clock fixed. While the cuckoo is in the hospital, I wander around and talk to the people in the streets. They are very strange people, and I get my ideas from them.”
On the inspiration for Horton Hatches the Egg:
“I was in my New York studio one day, sketching on transparent tracing paper, and I had the window open. The wind simply took a picture of an elephant that I’d drawn and put it on top of another sheet of paper that had a tree on it. All I had to do was to figure out what the elephant was doing in that tree.”
On whether that trick ever worked again:
“I’ve left my window open for 30 years since that, but nothing’s happened.”