Bits of Books - Books by Title

Who Was Dr Seuss?

Janet Pascal

More books on Books

Ted had always pronounced his middle name in the German way - "Zoyce", but most of his readers saw "Soose". Ted liked that it rhymed with 'goose' so he gave in and pronounced it that way.

More books on Names

Born 1904 in Springfield Massachsetts, where his grandfather had a brewery called Kalmbach and Giesel (known by the locals as "Come Back and Guzzle") and where his father worked. But 1920, Prohibition ruined the company just as Theodore was getting to college.

By end 1920's he was working for a struggling humour magazine and drawing cartoons for The Saturday Evening Post on the side. Pre-air con, people had to leave their windows open in summer to get a cool breeze, and of course got plenty of insects as well. A popular bug killer at the time was calle Flit. Ted drew a cartoon showing a knight in armour who can't sleep bc a dragon has come in his open window. And caption "Darn it all, another drago, And just as I've sprayed the whole castle with Flit." The wife of one of Flit's execs saw the cartoon and got Ted at $12,000 a year - a huge wage right in the middle of the Great Depression. He drew people in funny situations being attacked by huge bugs, andwith the tagline he invented "Quick henry, the Flit!". It was a hugely successful campaign, with the punchline becoming an early meme, quoted by comedians, and appearing in songs and plays.

The job made him financially secure, but creatively dissatisfied. But his contract forbad him from doing any other creative work, except illustrating children's books.

Like all authors, Ted got pestered with the old "where do you get your ideas from?" rote Q. At first he explained that he started by doodling a couple of animals. "If they bite each other, it'll make a good book." But got tired of this and started saying he got his ideas from the people in a small town called Uber Gletch, where he went every summer to get his cuckoo clock wound up.

Ted loved to invent words, such as sala-ma-goo, but some escaped his books and entered mainstream English. He invented nerd in his 1959 book If I Ran A Zoo when Gerald McGrew sails to Katroo and brings back a nerd.

Yertle The Turtle is about a tyrant who pushes everyone around until a brave little turtle stands up to him.

During course of his career he wrote some 40 books. When Publisher's Weekly drew up a list of the top 100 best-selling children's books of asll time, 24 of them were by Dr Seuss.


Dr. Seuss, pseudonym of Theodor Seuss Geisel, (born March 2, 1904, Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S. died September 24, 1991, La Jolla, California), American writer and illustrator of immensely popular children's books, which were noted for their nonsense words, playful rhymes, and unusual creatures.

After graduating from Dartmouth College (B.A., 1925), Geisel did postgraduate studies at Lincoln College, Oxford, and at the Sorbonne. He subsequently began working for Life, Vanity Fair, and other publications as an illustrator and humorist. In addition, he found success in advertising, providing illustrations for a number of campaigns. Geisel was especially noted for his work on ads for Flit insect repellent. Some of his characters later appeared in his children's works.

After illustrating a series of humour books, Geisel decided to write a children's book, which was reportedly rejected by nearly 30 publishers. After his chance meeting with a friend who was an editor at Vanguard Press, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street was finally released in 1937. The work centres on a young boy who transforms his ordinary walk home from school into a fantastical story. Later, however, he describes only the facts of his walk to his father, who frowns on the boy's imaginative nature. Geisel used the pen name Dr. Seuss, planning to publish novels under his surname; the Dr. was a tongue-in-cheek reference to his uncompleted doctorate degree. However, his first book for adults, The Seven Lady Godivas (1939), fared poorly, and thereafter he focused on children's books, which he preferred. According to Geisel, "Adults are obsolete children, and the hell with them."

After publishing several more children's works, Geisel released Horton Hatches the Egg in 1940. With it, he introduced the features that would come to define his books: a unique brand of humour, playful use of words, and outlandish characters. It centres on an elephant who is duped into sitting on the egg of a bird who goes on vacation. Despite various hardships, Horton refuses to leave: "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful one hundred percent!" In the end, he is rewarded when the egg hatches, and a creature with bird wings and an elephant's head emerges.

During World War II Geisel's focus shifted to politics. In the early 1940s he was an editorial cartoonist at PM magazine in New York City. He then served (1942–46) in the U.S. Army, where he was assigned to the documentary division. In 1945 he wrote Your Job in Germany, which was directed by Frank Capra; it was later remade as the Academy Award-winning Hitler Lives (1945), though Geisel was not credited. After his service ended, he continued to make films. With his first wife, Helen Palmer Geisel, he wrote the Oscar-winning documentary feature Design for Death (1947). His animated cartoon Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950) also won an Academy Award.

In 1947 Geisel returned to children's books with McElligot's Pool, about a boy who imagines a fantastical marine world while fishing. The work was especially noted for Geisel's inventive creatures, which would come to populate his later stories. In addition, he continued to use his whimsical rhymes to convey important life lessons. In Horton Hears a Who! (1954), the loyal pachyderm returns to protect a tiny speck of a planet known as Whoville. A discussion about minority rights and the value of all individuals, the work features Horton repeating "a person's a person, no matter how small." In 1957 Geisel published two of his most popular works: The Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. The former features a mischievous talking cat who entertains two bored children on a rainy day, while the latter introduces the Scrooge-like Grinch, who wants to ruin Christmas in Whoville but ultimately discovers that the holiday is more than just its material trappings. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was later adapted (1966) for television, and it became a holiday staple.

In 1958 Geisel founded Beginner Books, Inc., which in 1960 became a division of Random House. He subsequently wrote a number of books for beginning readers, notably One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960), Green Eggs and Ham (1960), Hop on Pop (1963), and Fox in Socks (1965). They - along with his other works - went far beyond the traditional, and often boring, primers and were valued for their contribution to the education of children. During this period, Geisel also wrote The Lorax (1971), in which he expressed concern for the environment. The cautionary tale centres on a businessman who destroys a forest of Truffula trees - despite the protest of the Lorax, who speaks up because "the trees have no tongues" - and, when left with a desolate landscape, laments the damage he has caused. Giesel's later notable books include the inspirational Oh, the Places You'll Go! (1990), which became a popular graduation gift.

In 1984 Geisel received a special Pulitzer Prize "for his special contribution over nearly half a century to the education and enjoyment of America's children and their parents." The honour underscored the immense popularity of his works, which were perennial best sellers. According to various reports, by the early 21st century more than 600 million copies of Dr. Seuss books had been sold worldwide.

Other Work

Geisel also designed and produced animated cartoons for television, many of them based on his books; he won Emmy Awards for Halloween Is Grinch Night (1977) and The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat (1982). In addition, several of his books were adapted as feature films in the 21st century. In 1948 Geisel moved to La Jolla, California, where he lived until his death in 1991. He annually conducted a children’s workshop at the La Jolla Museum of Art. A large collection of his papers was housed at the University of California, San Diego. The university's library was named the Geisel Library in his honour in 1995.

Some of Geisel's early tales for children were posthumously collected as The Bippolo Seed, and Other Lost Stories (2011) and Horton and the Kwuggerbug, and More Lost Stories (2014). The book What Pet Should I Get?, discovered by his widow in 2013, was published in 2015.


Theodor Seuss Geisel was born to Theodor and Henrietta Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts on March 2, 1904. Theodor, known as Ted by his family and friends, was the grandchild of German immigrants and had one sister, Margaretha Christine. Seuss was his mother's maiden name and was pronounced in the German manner: Zoice (rhymes with voice). He spent his childhood at 74 Fairfield Street, and when he walked through the Springfield Zoo in Forest Park with his father, he began bringing a pencil and sketch pad to draw animals.

Ted entered Dartmouth College in 1921 and graduated in June 1925. Dartmouth was where he first began using the pseudonym 'Seuss,' when he was writing for Jack-O-Lantern, the college humor magazine. He added 'Dr.' in 1927 and used the pseudonym Dr. Seuss thereafter. (After receiving an honorary doctorate from Dartmouth U, he boasted now he cd be DR. Dr. Seuss) He also used the pseudonym Theo LeSieg (LeSieg is Geisel spelled backwards) for books that he wrote but someone else illustrated. After Dartmouth, Ted traveled to Oxford where he attended Lincoln College and met future wife Helen Palmer. They married in 1927 and moved to New York City.

Dr. Seuss's first children's book was published in 1937 after it was previously rejected by publishers 27 times. And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street was based on his recollections from life in Springfield. Geisel was walking down Madison Avenue, about to throw the book away, when he ran into former classmate Mike McClintock, who had just been appointed juvenile editor of Vanguard Press. McClintock promptly took him up to his office where they signed a contract for Mulberry Street. Geisel once said, "That's one of the reasons I believe in luck. If I'd been going down the other side of Madison Avenue, I would be in the dry-cleaning business today!" Author Beatrix Potter called the book "the cleverest book I have met with for many years."

In 1943 Ted Geisel joined the army and was assigned to the Information and Education Division. This is where he met Chuck Jones, with whom he would collaborate to create the 1966 television special How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, based upon the book by the same name that was published in 1957. Ted identified with the grumpy character who famously hates Christmas but then has a change of heart, and even had a license plate on his Buick that read 'GRINCH.'

Ted and Helen moved to California and in 1948 they began building a home in La Jolla, where Ted would live for the rest of his life. The Geisels loved to entertain at their home and travel the world - the people and places they came into contact with sometimes becoming inspiration for his books. Dr. Seuss was a prankster and loved to joke, and he had a penchant for wearing crazy hats from his collection of hundreds.

In 1957 The Cat in the Hat was published and was an immediate success. After a 1955 book by Rudolf Flesch and an article in Life magazine in 1954 by novelist John Hersey, in which boring school primers were said to be a major cause of children not wanting to read, William Spaulding (then director of Houghton Mifflin's education division) challenged Dr. Seuss to "write me a story that first-graders can't put down," while using only 225 words chosen from a list of 348. Dr. Seuss accomplished the task using 236! The book's runaway success inspired Beginner Books, a division of Random House co-founded by Dr. Seuss, his wife Helen, and Phyllis Cerf (the wife of his publisher) that would publish books designed to help children learn to read. In the fall of 1958, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back and four other titles launched the Beginner Books series.

One of his next huge successes, Green Eggs and Ham, was published as a Beginner Book in 1960. Dr. Seuss's publisher, Bennett Cerf, bet him that he could not write a book using fifty or fewer different words. The resulting book, which has the fewest words of all his books, is his best-selling title.

After his first wife died, Geisel married Audrey (Stone) Dimond in 1968. The younger Audrey seemed to infuse Ted with new vigor and they embarked on many international trips over the years together including Tokyo, Hong Kong, Cambodia, New Delhi, Teheran, Jerusalem, Paris, and Nairobi, New Zealand, Australia, and Morocco. Philanthropy was important to Ted and Audrey, and they gave generously to many organizations locally and further afield. After Ted's death, Audrey donated his original manuscripts and illustrations to the University of California at San Diego, and in 1995 the university library was renamed Geisel Library.

Dr. Seuss was not just an author and illustrator known for inventing creatures with fanciful names and writing in rhyme. He was also a talented artist, and his paintings and sculptures continue to be showcased in art galleries across America. His imaginative characters and clever stories have given rise to everything from licensed products and movies, to museums and theme parks. Words that he made up have embedded themselves in pop culture and the English dictionary, and his Grinch character has become the epitome of a grouch. One simply cannot maneuver the Christmas season without a glimpse of the green 'mean one.'

Dr. Seuss won many awards for his various literary and entertainment projects, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for his special contribution to the education and enjoyment of America's children and their parents. Three of his books received Caldecott Honors, he was the recipient of seven honorary doctorate degrees (including one from his alma mater), and he was even posthumously awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2004.

Dr. Seuss died on September 24, 1991, but the man who inspired everyone from six-year-olds to NASA spacecraft engineers left behind a gigantic legacy of genius and imagination. And every year on his March 2nd birthday he is remembered around the globe as children and adults alike celebrate literacy in his honor.


When Dr. Seuss was a kid, he liked to draw. His teachers didn't like him much because he did projects that were supposed to be serious in a funny way. Like the time his teacher told him to draw a pot of flowers, but he drew fancy flowers with mouths, eyes, and arms that were dancing.

When he was older he worked in a book company and he drew, but the company fired him because he did something illegal. When he went back he needed to change his name. Yes, his name was NOT Dr. Seuss! After that in his university he met a girl who told him that his drawings were cool and nice and that he drew really well. She was the only one that thought he was talented. Then, like in a fairy tale story, they got married.

He didn't have too much money because no one wanted to accept him, so he started creating his own books! Kids loved the books, but all of the teachers didn't like their kids reading the books so they hid the books from the kids. Then Dr. Seuss did some movies and he won two Oscars! He started thinking if instead of books he should do movies. He decided to write more books and wrote this awesome phrase: "Oh the places you'll go!" I liked this book a lot and I will never forget the phrase, "Oh the places you'll go!"

Books by Title

Books by Author

Books by Topic

Bits of Books To Impress