The Truth Behind Dr. Seuss

In his book Happy Birthday to You, Dr. Seuss wrote the lines “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”  How relevant do those words seem when you relate them to the man himself? No other writer has been able to express his own individuality as well as Dr. Seuss, and on his birthday today, what better way to celebrate than exposing some of the You-ness behind his books. Here are some interesting facts about Dr. Seuss.

  • And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, the first children’s book Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated was rejected 27 times before finally being published by a friend in 1937.  
  • Oh, the Places You’ll Go was Dr. Seuss’ final book, published in 1990.
  • Dr. Seuss never had children and didn’t interact well with them.  His wife Audrey once said he was afraid of them.  Seuss told people, “You have children. I’ll entertain them.”  
  • Dr. Seuss admitted that the character of The Grinch was based on himself.
  • Although Boris Karloff provided the voice of The Grinch in the Seuss-sanctioned cartoon, Thurl Ravenscroft, AKA Tony the Tiger, was the one who sang the song You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. When Seuss learned that Ravenscroft did not receive credit on screen, he wrote to several newspaper columnists to tell them who had sung the song.
  • Dr. Seuss was one of the first children’s writers to insert political and social themes into his works.  The Lorax was about how humans are destroying nature, Yertle the Turtle was a representation of Hitler and The Butter Battle Book was a reference to the Cold War.
  • The Lorax used to contain the line “I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie,” but 14 years after the book was published, Seuss was contacted by the Ohio Sea Grant Program, who told him how the conditions had improved and implored him to take the line out.  Seuss agreed and the line has not appeared in any editions since then.
  • Despite the political nature of Yertle the Turtle, the only thing the publisher disputed was Mack’s burp, for no one had ever burped in a children’s book before, and they weren’t sure how the public would receive it.  In the end, Mack kept his burp.
  • After reading a 1954 report published in Life magazine about illiteracy among school children, a textbook editor commissioned Seuss to write a book which would appeal to children learning to read.  Acknowledging that the Dick and Jane primers were “insanely boring,” Seuss took the challenge, and using only the 250 word vocabulary provided to him by the editor, wrote The Cat in the Hat.
  • Seuss was never one to back down from a challenge.  One time his editor bet him that he couldn’t write a book using only 50 individual words.  So Seuss picked up his pen and wrote Green Eggs and Ham, which has 50 individual words exactly.
  • Anyone who has ever read Dr. Seuss knows that he invented many different words, but did you know that he invented the word “nerd?”  It appeared in his book If I Ran a Zoo, published in 1950.  A “nerd” was one of the more interesting animals the main character would bring to the zoo if he were in charge.  The accompanying illustration showed a grumpy Seussean creature with unruly hair, sideburns and a black T-shirt.
  • Dr. Seuss wrote more than 48 books, delighting young and old alike by combining the ridiculous with the logical, and he won a special Pulitzer citation for “his contribution over nearly half a century to the education and enjoyment of America’s children and their parents.”

Yes, it is true, Dr. Seuss. No one is Youer than You!

Dr. Seuss’ You-ness hasn’t come to an end either.  Dr. Seuss’ books are still making a difference in the lives of children today, plus, four new Dr. Seuss stories are set to be released in the fall. A study revealed the rhyming and alliterative properties of Dr. Seuss books did improve certain aspects of phonemic awareness in children 3-7 years old, as well as initial sound fluency.  In older children oral reading fluency and nonsense word fluency were increased.  Perhaps that is why for the past 18 years, the National Education Association (NEA) has chosen Dr. Seuss’ birthday as Read Across America Day.  This year, the NEA has chosen the Seuss classic Oh, The Places You’ll Go as the book to read.   

Share the love of reading by donating your favorite Dr. Seuss book, or any other new or gently-used children’s book to the Half Pint Library Book Drive.

As Dr. Seuss said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Julie is Traffic Manager at Half Price Books Corporate.
You may follow her on Twitter at @auntjewey.

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