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Monday, March 7, 2016

Hats Off, Dr. Seuss! By Gail L. Jenner

As writers, it’s inspiring to look at the lives of other writers who have “done it right” (whatever that means!) or who have contributed significantly to the world of ideas and imagination.

In that vein, it’s fun to consider writer and illustrator Dr. Seuss – aka Theodor Seuss Geisel. Because his birthday fell on March 2nd, and because as a former English teacher I love anything that gets kids and students reading, I thought it would be fun to do a little research on Seuss.

First of all, Seuss was “no doctor,” although his father always wanted him to become one. In 1956, he did receive an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Dartmouth College.  Seuss was his mother’s maiden name, but he never used it until college. The story goes that after being caught with gin in his dorm room, he was removed as editor of the college’s humor magazine, hence, to continue submitting, he took on the pen name. The original pronunciation of Seuss rhymes with “voice,” but few could remember it -- so Seuss (as rhyming with “goose”) became the standard pronunciation!

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Seuss became an advertising cartoonist. He drew for General Electric, NBC, Standard Oil, Narragansett Brewing Company and other commercial businesses.

His first book was titled And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street and was actually inspired by a trip home from Europe; the rhythms reflected the rhythm of the ship’s engines, and Mulberry Street was the street where his grandmother lived. Hard to imagine it today, but the book was rejected 27 times before being sold and published in 1937! It’s been written that Seuss almost burned the manuscript.

Interestingly, though we think of Dr. Seuss books as funny or humorous or even silly, many of his works were in response to the world surrounding the author. For instance, his book Yertle, the Turtle, was actually about Hitler!

Seuss’ books occasionally raised eyebrows. Yertle, the Turtle was not criticized for its caricature of Hitler, but for the fact that Yertle burps at the end of the story. THAT was the first time such an action had been included in a children’s story!

In 1960, Seuss’ editor bet him that he couldn’t write a book in 50 words or less. The result: Green Eggs and Ham is exactly 50 words long!

Obviously, Dr. Seuss’ talent goes way beyond the average writer’s imagination. He was someone who obviously took inspiration from anywhere and anyone. He was not afraid to take chances, and he was willing to push the envelope in the topics or ideas he tackled.

As an educator, a parent, a grandparent, and as a writer, I see Theodor Seuss Geisel as a model of an individual who had a vision and pursued his craft in his own way. 

Perhaps mostly as a writer, I find his idiosynchrosies inspiring! To have confidence in one’s own vision is an important and critical tool, no matter what genre or category of writing we each pursue.

                        So, Hats off, Dr. Seuss, and Happy Birthday! A few days late, perhaps, but certainly an opportunity to consider your contributions to both children and writers everywhere!


Gail L. Jenner is the author of several books and short stories, including the WILLA Award-winning
Across the Sweet Grass Hills,
                                                     published by Prairie Rose Publications

Her newest PRP releases include: Valentine Angel, released Feb. 11, 2016, and her story "A Respectable Woman" in Lariats, Letters, and Love, released Feb. 4, 2016.
For more, check out her biography and titles on amazon: 


  1. An inspiration in so many ways. I agree, Happy Birthday to someone who was a gift to us all. Doris

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Doris! I find reading about what motivates other writers is inspiring and gives me great encouragement, don't you???

    1. I really do. And you learn so much from other writers use of language.

  3. One of my standard high school graduation gifts is "Oh, the Places You'll Go". This book, as in many Dr. Seuss books, has a greater life lesson beneath the surface.

    1. True....Seuss seems to always have a lesson or theme, for sure. I've given that same book to seniors, too -- and one year, as the graduation speaker, used that as part of my was fun!