Who was Dr. Seuss

By April Hall
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teen and girl reading a book
For generatons, Dr. Seuss books have been a favorite for reading time
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Millions of American children have grown up with the whimsical rhymes and colorful illustrations of Dr. Seuss books. Many of us have even learned to read by struggling through Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat. However, most of us have no idea about who Dr. Seuss really is — or, worse, we think he is only a fictional character. The truth is Dr. Seuss was indeed a real person; in fact, he led a very interesting life that spanned both decades and continents.

Dr. Seuss was actually born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1904. His father was a park superintendent and a brewmaster, and after growing up in a liberal home (liberal for times of Prohibition), Seuss attended Dartmouth College. He held the post of editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper until he was asked to resign because he held a party that included alcohol. Instead of resigning, he penned the pseudonym Seuss, and continued his work. Six months after graduation, he added a "Dr." to his name, and Dr. Seuss was born.

During World War II, Seuss was a political cartoonist and he published works in a left-wing New York City newspaper that was strongly anti-Japanese and at the same time, somehow strongly anti-American racism. He was a strong supporter of Roosevelt and a vocal critic of Charles Lindberg's opposition to America's entry in the war. He eventually ended up joining the Air Force and was part of its inaugural "Motion Picture Unit."

After the war, Seuss moved with his wife to La Jolla, California. It was there that he wrote his most famous works, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas! It was also here that Seuss became aware of American schoolchildren's illiteracy, which was the foundation for the "Beginner Books" that Seuss is perhaps most famous for. Using 220 of the 400 words labeled "most important" for young children to learn, Seuss wrote The Cat in the Hat — an instant classic. Seuss followed up that book with another classic written using only 50 words, otherwise known as Green Eggs and Ham. These Beginner Books were rumored to be very difficult for Seuss to complete. Instead of focusing solely on them, he also continued to write in his older, more sophisticated style. One example of this old style, which was written for adults, is Oh, The Places You'll Go! If people ever wonder exactly who was Dr. Seuss, they will easily be able to discover the answer by perusing the pages of this graduation staple.

Modern technology has made it possible to turn some of Dr. Seuss' best-loved works into movies suitable for an entire new generation. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! became a modern Christmas classic, and the recent movie version of The Cat in the Hat made the pages of this beginner book come to life. One reason everyone loves Dr. Seuss' works is the unique characters and machinery that are such an integral part of the stories. It is fun to see them translated onto the big screen in a modern theater.

Dr. Seuss was quite reluctant to have his characters exist anywhere but the pages of his books, because he wanted young children — and adults — to experience the joy of reading. And he succeeded. The man who was Dr. Seuss has left an impression on American literature that will last for many generations to come, as families continue to flip the pages of these beginner books to the delight of a whole new group of young children.

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