STORYTELLING: What’s Your Favorite Dr. Seuss book?

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“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

 

One of the great storytellers in English and true independent spirits was born on this date.

Dr. Seuss, who taught kids the importance of being yourself, trying new things (Green Eggs and Ham), not being afraid of going out on your own, was born today in 1902.

The great Doctor (Theodore Geisel) did all that in perfectly rhymed (he knew how to count syllables) sentences, with whacky characters and drawings, exploding forever the “See Spot Run” children-book model.

The Cat in the Hat contained 236 different words. It’s been published in 12 languages, including Latin.

To think he wrote it in 1954, the year the Army-McCarthy hearings took place, the stifled and conformist 1950s, makes him one of the radicals of that decade, if you ask me.

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” Sounds like the motto for the 1960s. (Maybe the mid-1950s was when the 1960s really began.)

As a wanna-be writer of children’s books — with two unpublished manuscripts, including one rhymed — I have particular appreciation for his rhyme and rhythm schemes, and his close attention to syllable count in each line.

Here’s some great Dr Seuss quotes.images-1

Happy Birthday, Doc!

 Yertle the Turtle is one of my favorites, along with Green Eggs and Ham, as all my life people have occasionally called me Sam I Am.

What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book?

 

4 Comments

Filed under Books, Storytelling

4 Responses to STORYTELLING: What’s Your Favorite Dr. Seuss book?

  1. Bob Hall

    ‘“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” Sounds like the motto for the 1960s. (Maybe the mid-1950s was when the 1960s really began.)’

    That sounds like something you might have heard from Dizzy Gillespie or another Bebop jazz musician from the 1940s. Geisel may also have been influenced by the Zoot Suiter’s insistence on dressing and acting according to their own norms. Or he may have been influenced by Greenwich Village bohemians from the 1920s, or by writers like Gertrude Stein or artists like Duchamp. Other possibilities are the Harlem Renaissance and the history of black resistance to racial stereotypes and social restrictions. Or it could be all of the above. In addition to Western sources, I also hear echoes of Western writers who popularized Eastern religion in Geisel’s books. Alan Watts published a book on Zen in 1936 and there were other writers before him. Geisel seems to have drawing on well established philosophical, artistic, and political traditions when he started writing. I haven’t even begun to cover all the possibilities.

    • samquinones

      Bob — all that rings true. I was amazed to learn he began in the 1950s. His drawings alone, not to mention the messages of the stories, are far beyond what I associate with that decade — certainly pop culture in that decade. Well ahead of his time, I always thought.

      I’m also dismayed that rhyming children’s books has fallen out of favor. Nothing attracts a young mind to prose like good rhythm and rhyme in words.

      • Bob Hall

        I agree with your specific points. Children like rhyming and other forms of linguistic play. Children’s books are a bit strange in that they are bought by one group of people to be read by another group. It’s possible that parents are buying Dr. Seuss and then deciding that they don’t need any other rhyming books. Or perhaps an increase in recorded music for children is displacing non-musical verse. I would guess that there would be more rhyming books if children were doing the buying.

        I don’t know enough about art history to comment on Geisel’s drawings.

        I suppose part of the genius of Geisel is that the anarchy of “Green Eggs and Ham” can leave me wondering to what extent it was influenced by Dada, without in any way diminishing the enjoyment that children get from it.

  2. Oh choose ONE Dr. Seuss book? That’s like choosing ONE flavor of ice cream! My top three have to be the first I remember — To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, followed closely by Horton Hears a Who and The Grinch. And the winner is….Horton! as a child I loved that big old elephant carefully carrying the clover. I loved it when my kids were small and I love it still today.

    Hooray for Dr. Seuss! AND Hooray to you for reminding us.

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