The Incredible Legacy of Dr Seuss

The Incredible Legacy of Dr Seuss

Very few parents have not heard the name Dr Seuss.

He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on March 2, 1921, to Henrietta Seuss and Robert Theodor Geisel who named him Theodor Seuss Geisel. His boyhood home was in Fairfield Street near Mulberry Street. His family is of German descent.

Theodor Seuss Geisel was a talented man. He was a political cartoonist, illustrator, animator, screenwriter, filmmaker, poet and one of the best selling children's authors of all time.

Of the estimated 600 million-plus book sales attributed to him, most have been under his pen name Dr Seuss. He has also written books as Theo LeSieg and one as Rosetta Stone. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages.

And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street, published in 1937, was the first children's book published under the name Dr Seuss.

Amongst his published books are bestsellers of all time.

Green Eggs and Ham published in 1960 is his best selling book with an estimated 8 million-plus copies sold so far.

The Cat in The Hat, the story of a mischievous and slightly overbearing cat, was published in 1957. This book came about by chance.

As usual, educators were arguing about how to teach young children to read. The debate still goes on today.

The Cat in The popular with children and adults. The book is a classic in children's literature. It has a great plot, unique voice, great characters and captivating illustrations.

Anita Silvey, author of 100 Best Books for Children, says:

"Some books we read and forget about them right away. But there are those books that stay with us. The Cat in the Hat is that kind of book."

There was an educational debate going on at the time about how to teach young children to read.

Theodor Geisel was asked to write an entertaining book from a list of words provided by the publisher. It was recognized that the current primers (books) children were introduced to were not good enough.

Many children were failing to learn to read. The primers used were not engaging enough. Misguided educators felt learning to read should involve memorizing whole words rather than learning letter-sound relationships (phonics). Learning to read involves both.

Geisel was asked to write a book from a list of around 227 words.

He had several versions on how the book came about. The story he told most often was that he scanned the list, noticed the words cat and hat rhymed, and then decided to write about a cat in a hat.

The main character is a tall cat, wearing a red and white striped hat and a red bow tie, who behaves like a human.

This magical cat turns up at the home of Sally and her brother, on a rainy day, when their mother was out. The cat is a mischief-maker. The children become ill at ease as the cat creates havoc around the house.

Despite the warnings from the children's pet fish, the cat shows them a few tricks.

The cat has two companions, Thing One and Thing Two and the three of them manage to wreck the house while the fish and the children look on in horror.

However, the Cat in the Hat is magical. He produces a machine that cleans up the house before the mother returns home.

The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss was far more entertaining than the traditional primers.

The book was an immediate success when it was published in 1957. It received critical acclaim and financial success. Within three years over a million copies were sold.

In 2001, The Cat in the Hat was listed on the Publisher's Weekly list as the ninth best-selling children's books of all time.

Geisel was proud of the book because it had something to do with killing off the boring Dick and Jane primers.

The Cat in the Hat was the first of several Beginner Books that Geisel produced.

He wrote and illustrated 44 children's books to become one of the most prominent children's authors of all time.

Some of his well-known titles are:                                         

  •  Oh, the Places You'll Go
  • Green Eggs and Ham
  • One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish:           
  • Hop on Pop: Pop
  • Dr Seuss's ABC:
  • Fox in Socks: Dr Seuss Books
  • My Book About Me
  • Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!

Children enjoy Dr Seuss books. In them are little homilies that give timely advice about the ways of the word.

For example:

  • You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
  • Think and wonder, wonder and think.
  • The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.
  • Sometimes the questions are complicated, and the answers are simple.
  • From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.

The boring primers had met their match!

Five reasons why to love Dr Seuss books.

Dr Seuss books are:

  • Terrific to use to help young readers master phonics
  • Easy to read aloud and for building a child's confidence
  • Great for reluctant readers. They're fun!
  • A way to introduce life's lessons in an amusing yet powerful way.
  • Great gifts for children of all ages.

Theodor Seuss Geisel writing as Dr Seuss has made an outstanding contribution to children's literacy, and I am sure he will for many generations to come.

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