The 2000 movie Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas, starring Jim Carrey (1962–), was a major hit with audiences. The grotesque green-skinned character was actually created more than forty years earlier, however, by the author and illustrator known as Dr. Seuss. His books, with their colorful characters and rhyming language, have entertained children all over the world for decades.
Dr. Seuss was born Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904–1991) in Springfield, Massachusetts. As a child, he made frequent trips to the zoo, where he got the inspiration for many of his animal creations. He had a flair for drawing and later contributed illustrations to his college's humor magazine. In the 1920s and 1930s, Geisel began working as a professional cartoonist and illustrator, mostly for advertising agencies.
Geisel's real ambition was to create his own children's books. In 1936, he published his first, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Its colorful drawings and imaginative, rhyming text were to become trademarks of the Dr. Seuss style. He published other books, including the popular Horton Hatches an Egg (1940). During World War II (1939–45), Geisel created cartoons in support of the U.S. war effort. He also worked on army training films.
In the 1950s, Geisel enjoyed perhaps his greatest period of success. His books Horton Hears a Who (1954), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957), and The Cat in the Hat (1957) were filled with nonsense humor and made-up words and sold millions of copies worldwide. Challenged to write a book using fewer than fifty words, Geisel created Green Eggs and Ham (1960), one of his best-loved classics. Other Geisel books had more serious themes. The Lorax (1971) dealt with saving the environment, for example.
Geiselcontinued writing until his death in 1991. Overall, his books sold more than one hundred million copies and were translated into eighteen languages. Toward the end of his life, Geisel even wrote books for adults, like Oh, The Places You'll Go! (1990). Those too became bestsellers (see entry under 1940s—Commerce in volume 3). The magic of Dr. Seuss, it seems, works on people of all ages.
—Robert E. Schnakenberg
For More Information
Morgan, Judith, and Neil Morgan. Dr. Seuss &Mr. Geisel. New York: Random House, 1995.
Random House, Inc. Seussville.http://www.randomhouse.com/seussville/ (accessed March 7, 2002).
Seuss, Dr. A Hatful of Seuss: Five Favorite Dr. Seuss Stories. New York: Random House, 1997.
Weidt, Maryann N. Oh the Places He Went: A Story About Dr. Seuss. New York: Carolrhoda Books, 1994.