I don't think I've ever shared before just how deeply I am in love with the works of Dr. Seuss. I own fairly large collection of his books. My parents still get me one I don't yet own for every Christmas and birthday. I also purchase them on my own on occasion, but not near Christmases or birthdays because I want to avoid duplication. I keep them neatly stacked in a bookcase in alphabetical order in my bedroom. My parents have repeatedly offered to make room for the Dr. Seuss volumes in their own library, but I want them in my own room.
Someday, assuming nothing else goes out of print and becomes ridiculously expensive before I've collected it, I hope to own every book ever written by him, including the ones written under other pseudonyms. Ones that he has written but not illustrated are published under Theo LeSieg, which is, of course, the backward spelling of his actual last name, Geisel. Suess, his middle name, was his mother's maiden name. Interestingly enough, the correct pronunciation of is is /soiss/. He original labored to have his number one pseudonym pronounced correctly, but eventually gave up in his effort.
Sr. Seuss first began using Seuss as a synonym because he was for some reason banned from writing for a publication at Dartmouth, where he earned his undergraduate degree. He continued to contribute to the publication, though under a synonym.
Dr. Seuss went to Oxford University in England to earn his doctorate, but met and fell in love with a woman, so instead returned to the United States and married her. he never officially earned a doctorate, though he must have possessed a truckload of honorary doctorates by the time of his death, which was, I believe, in 1991.
While Dr. Seuss professed liberal political leanings and was a registered democrat (he once rewrote
Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now with the name Richard M. Nixon inserted in each place where "Marvin K Mooney" had been. That alone would make me love the guy as an author even if he had written nothing else of significance.
While his political ideology may have been liberal, I suspect the agenda of Dr. Seuss with most of his books was more about getting people -- children in particular -- to think than to persuade them to believe one way or another. A couple notable exceptions to this, are The Butter Battle Book, which is clearly anti-war and especially a treatise against nuclear power and [my personal favorite] The Lorax, which clearly has an environmental message. For the most part, though, I think he was deliberately open-ended.
Not everyone likes the works of Dr. Seuss. Some people find the rhyme scheme and the meter usually employed -- anapestic tetrameter -- to be monotonous. Some elementary school teachers have told me they dislike many of the works because the language is unnatural. They're slightly missing the point in my opinion. The language of poetry is, by nature, unnatural. Anyone who disagrees should compose a lengthy rhyming poem. We'll all dissect it afterward to determine the natural flow of the poem's language.
Furthermore, the natural flow of language should matter only in the Dr. Seuss books for the very earliest readers. (After the earliest stage, the readers should have sufficient vocabulary and reading skills not to require extremely heavy context in order either to decode or to comprehend literature.) Books for early readers should have built-in cues on which young readers can pick up. One such method of creating such cues is making the language very predictable and adding pictures that practically give the words away. Another method of making text predictable is to employ the technique of rhyme. It's difficult to use both methods simultaneously on a very large scale. Again, anyone who thinks otherwise should give it a try. I'd love to see it done well.
A friend of mine teaches preschool for children with special needs. A mother of one of her students complained about The Cat in the Hat and The Cat in The Hat Comes Back being read aloud to her child. The mother felt that Thing 1 and Thing 2 plus Little Cats A, B, C, D, E, F, G, etc., in addition to the cat himself, were destructive to the extent it encouraged her child to be naughty. my friend explained to the mother that it was not the children behaving badly -- in fact, they, along with the fish, were appalled at the antics of the cat ant the little creatures. It was intruders misbehaving. My friend explained both that she always made the point whenever she read the books that one should never let strangers into the house when their parents were not home -- that Sally and the boy (he had no name in the book, but in the movie was called Conrad) were very lucky something much worse didn't happen. It's a good opportunity to remind children that it's dangerous to answer the door when mommy is in the bathroom or wherever.
Furthermore, my friend explained to the mother, the sorts of things the cat, the things, and the little cats did -- standing on a ball while holding a rake and balancing a fishbowl on top of it, or flying kites inside a house, for example, were things that would be difficult for young children to manage if they were under any responsible supervision whatsoever. If a parent goes into his or her bedroom, closes the door, and sleeps for three hours while her two- and four-year-olds have the run of the house, it's conceivable they might attempt some of the cat's feats, but any parent who would provide such incompetent supervision could hardly blame a book for what destruction his or her toddlers might create in a parent's virtual absence. And any child legitimately old enough to be left alone who would try such things belongs either in a psych ward or in juvey.
My friend's experience is a reminder that whatever profession one chooses, one will inevitably deal with either batshit crazy or highly ignorant people. but, as my friend pointed out, it's better to deal with one of them than to be one of them.
I digressed in a major way. my point is that if you haven't picked up a Dr. Seuss book recently, find one and read it to a child. It will be time well-spent.