Saturday, July 14, 2007

50 years since Dr Seuss published 'The Cat in the Hat' !

Page from 'Oh The Places You'll Go!'

It is 50 years since Dr Seuss published his creative children's' book 'The Cat in the Hat'.

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in 1904 the son of German immigrants. His mother Henrietta soothed her children to sleep by 'chanting' rhymes remembered from her own childhood. Ted, as he was known, credited his mother for his ability to create the rhymes for which he became so well known.

Born in a town called Springfield Massachusetts his memory of the town, surroundings and people can be seen in many of the images in his books. It must be a co-incidence that the Simpson family also live in a town called Springfield?

Ted left Springfield as teenager to attend college and became editor in chief of the college magazine. His tenure as editor ended prematurely when he, and his friends, were caught throwing a drinking party - illegal in times of prohibition! He continued to contribute to the magazine under the pseudonym 'Seuss'.

To please his father Ted went on to Oxford University in England. His academic studies bored him and he decided to tour Europe instead. Oxford, however, provided him with the opportunity to meet his fist wife Helen. One wonders what he would have observed in pre war Europe.

He returned to the United States and began a career as a cartoonist and working with advertising campaigns. As World War Two approached Ted's focus shifted and he began publishing a weekly political cartoon. During the war he was introduced to the art of animation and developed a series of animated training films based on a trainee called Private Snoofu. A sign of things to come?

He worked after the war contributing successfully to a number of well known magazines; his illustrations receiving great reviews. He wrote his first book at this time and it required a great deal of persistence on his behalf - it was rejected 27 times before being published!

'The Cat in the Hat' was the defining book in Ted's career and was developed with the constraints he could only use 225 new vocabulary words. As they say, the rest is history.Few children,and adults, would not have heard of, and enjoyed, Dr Seuss's ( as he became known) sense of humor and creativity.

After the death of his first wife in 1967 he married an old friend, At the time of his own death in September 24 1991 he had written and illustrated 44 children's books and over 200 million copies of his book were sold.

One of his books, 'The Lorax', is now studied at one university in New Zealand as part of their Environmental Science course.

I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot.
Nothing is going to get better.
It's not

I am sure students of all ages could gain much by discussing some of the ideas Dr Seuss included in his books.

One book in particular I like is called 'Hooray for Diffendoofer Day'. It was about teaching and Dr Seuss didn't think teachers would like it. It was eventually published after his death. Two rhymes from it are;

They are miserable in Flobbertown
They dress in just one style
They sing one song
They never dance
They march in single file.

The illustration shows unhappy students marching away from a gloomy dreary school on a hill. In contrast, to this version of traditional education, he writes his own preference, a joyous ode to individuality and creativity, showing on one page a happy colourful teacher cartwheeling in the classroom.

Of all the teachers in our school
I like Miss Bonkers best
Our teachers are all different
But she's the different-er
Than the rest,
Miss Bonkers
Teaches everything!

Some other quotes from his books to consider:

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers simple

The more you read the more things you will know.
The more you learn the more places you'll go.

Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.

Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them. Personal writing)

I like nonsense, it wakes me up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.Which is what I do.And that enables you to laugh at life's realities. ( Personal writing)

Young cat, if you keep your eyes open enough,
Oh, the stuff you would learn!
The most wonderful stuff!

Finally a great message
For students of all ages
You'll see this
On one of Dr Seuss's pages!:

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.
You're on your own.
And you know what you know.
You are the guy who'll decide where to go

Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
Get on your way.


Anonymous said...

It is interesting to learn a little of the background of 'Dr Seuss'. More than just a gifted children's book writer! Researching the lives of book authors would make an interesting study for a class-and a good use of the www.

Anonymous said...

We should take Dr Seuss's advice and not worry so much about people who don't matter. Great blog Bruce