Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

By Roberta Sarver


I was a victim of writer’s block this week. Seeking for inspiration, I began researching famous people who were born in March.

Where would we be without Dr. Seuss?   The famous author of Cat in Hat  was born Theodore Seuss Geisel on March 2, 1904.  He began using his pen name, Dr. Seuss, in college. Geisel wasn’t really a doctor, although one of his parents had wanted him to earn a PhD.  Instead, he chose to become an author and an illustrator.

Dr. Seuss a/k/a Geisel actually began his career as an advertising cartoonist for companies such as Standard Oil, NBC, Ford, and General Electric. His fame as an author of children’s books was triggered when Bennett Cerf wagered that Geisel couldn’t write a book using 50 words or less. “Dr. Seuss” won the bet by writing Green Eggs and Ham, using exactly 50 words.

You probably thought this author’s most famous cultural achievement was introducing children to the joys of early reading. Actually, he influenced our culture even further.  He coined the word “nerd” in his book If I Ran the Zoo.

Interestingly, Dr. Seuss never had children of his own. While he did stepparent his wife’s two daughters, he sometimes tired of hearing friends brag about their own children, so he invented names of make-believe children of his own. They were “Chrysanthemum-Pearl (aged 89 months, going on 90),”  Norval, Wally, Wickersham, Miggles, Boo-Boo, and Thnud.

“I don’t write for children. I write for people,” he once told an interviewer.  “I think I can communicate with kids because I don’t try to communicate with kids. Ninety percent of the children’s books patronize the child and say there’s a difference between you and me, so you listen to this story. I, for some reason or another, don’t do that. I treat the child as an equal.”

And that perhaps is the reason for Geisel’s wildly successful career as an illustrator and author of so many children’s books. He wrote for the child in all of us.

Roberta Sarver is an author and songwriter who lives in central Missouri. Her humor columns appear in the Versailles Leader-Statesman and her original songs of worship have appeared on radio stations across the nation. She and her husband are the parents of seven children.

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