June 07, 2019

(Bettmann / Getty Images)  

When it comes to children’s books, I’m certain you’ll find

There’s really one name that jumps first to mind

That name - as you’ll probably deduce -

Could only belong to one Dr. Seuss

And so we take a look 

At biographer Brian Jay Jones’ new book

All about that good doctor’s work and creations,

Called “Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel And The Making of An American Imagination”.

Three Takeaways:

  • Theodor Geisel struck gold with The Cat in the Hat at the age of 53, but he had dabbled in several different careers before he became a full-time children’s book author. Geisel was previously a political cartoonist, an ad man, a film animator for the army and a Hollywood screenwriter.   
  • Geisel received strict instructions before writing The Cat in the Hat. He had to use 350 unique words or less - though the editors really wanted him to use closer to 200. He initially wanted to write about a queen zebra, though neither “queen” or “zebra” were on the word list.
  • Much of Geisel’s work was influenced by the techniques he learned as an animator, political cartoonist and screenwriter, including his sparing use of colors. Earlier in his career, he had worked with Chuck Jones, who worked on the Looney Tunes cartoons at Warner Brothers.

More Reading:

  • A profile of Dr. Seuss that was published in the New Yorker in 1960.
  • The BBC explores how Geisel’s career as a political cartoonist influenced his work as Dr. Seuss. 
  • As beloved as Dr. Seuss’ books are, some of his work has been criticized for racist depictions of people of color. NPR’s Code Switch team looks into the debate teachers regularly tackle about how to teach classic works, when the stories of their authors are complex.

Children's Literature, Dr Seuss, Culture, Brian Jay Jones

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