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Dr. Seuss Biography | Poet

Photo of Dr. Seuss

Much beloved, Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) wrote many children's books during his career and established a genre that is cherished by children and adults today. His rhyming words, graphic illustrations and moralistic stories for children are a legacy. Theodore Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on March 2, 1904. A brilliant illustrator and an intelligent man, Geisel built a career through the twentieth century that has left the world with timeless classics of simple stories that carry a message of respect and honor. Geisel's work is considered so poignant in literature today that his birthday is celebrated by the National Education Association as the Annual National Read Across America Day.

Theodore Geisel becomes Dr. Seuss

Geisel's grandparents were all German immigrants and his father, Theodore Robert Geisel, managed the family business, a brewery. When the brewery was shut down during Prohibition, Mr. Geisel was chosen to supervise the Springfield public park system. During his childhood in Springfield, young Theodore became interested in drawing and was influenced by the details he saw around him. Mulberry Street which would influence his first children's book, "And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street", was just a mile from his home on Fairfield Street.

Geisel excelled at art and soccer in high school and went to Dartmouth College. While at Dartmouth, Geisel was Editor-in-Chief of the humor magazine, Jack-O-Lantern. Unfortunately, he and some friends were caught drinking alcohol and were banned from extracurricular activities. That was when Geisel decided to write under a pseudonym. His father had hoped for him to go to medical school, so Theodore Seuss Geisel became "Dr. Seuss".

After graduating from Dartmouth, Geisel went to England to study at Oxford University. He planned to earn his PhD in Literature but met a young lady, Helen, who encouraged him to focus on illustrating. In 1927, Dr. Seuss left Oxford without earning a degree and returned to the United States to draw.

An illustrating career

Seuss quickly landed a jobs as an illustrator and cartoonist. His work was featured in The Saturday Evening Post, the magazine Judge, Vanity Fair, Life Magazine and other famous publications. He worked on major advertising campaigns including one for Standard Oil. When he was hired as a political cartoonist for the New York newspaper, PM, he decided to wed Helen and settle down to a comfortable job.

In 1937, Seuss published his first illustrated children's book, "And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street". During World War Two, Seuss was given the job of creating animated short films for the United States Army and won and Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1947.

Creating a children's literature legacy

Helen and Seuss moved to La Jolla, California after the war, and Seuss focused on writing and illustrating children's books. Throughout the 1950s, Seuss published many classic books including "If I Ran The Zoo", "Horton Hears A Who", "If I Ran The Circus", "The Cat In The Hat", "How The Grinch Stole Christmas!" and "Green Eggs And Ham". During his lifetime, Seuss published over sixty books. Of those books, eleven became television productions, four became feature films, four became television series and one became a Broadway musical.

Seuss' later years

Helen and Seuss remained in La Jolla and never had any children of their own. Sadly, Helen battled cancer, and Seuss allegedly began an affair with Audrey Stone Diamond. Helen committed suicide in 1967. Seuss married Audrey and continued to write. Seuss died on September 24, 1991.

Dr. Seuss remains one of the most beloved writers and illustrators of children's literature. He was honored in many ways during his career. In 1958 and 1961, he was given the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award. After his death, the University of California, San Diego named its library in his honor. Recently a transcript of an unknown book written and illustrated by Seuss was found and published. "What Pet Should I Get?" is the first Dr. Seuss book released in twenty-five years.

Dr. Seuss' literary legacy has a profound effect on children and adults. The catchy, simple rhyme schemes make his books fun to read. The colorful, idiosyncratic illustrations capture the attention of readers, young and old. The simple moralistic tales appeal to adults and leave a lasting impression on young minds. The nostalgia of Dr. Seuss' books, television specials and movies is apparent in their continued popularity. 

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