Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Man Behind His Words

This captivating biography of the bestselling children’s author in history reveals at last the man who had a unique influence on four generations of Americans, who championed children’s rights before that phrase was familiar, and who revolutionized the way children learn to read. The very name Dr. Seuss inevitably provokes a smile and some recollection of a beloved character - Horton, perhaps, or Thidwick or the Cat in the Hat. Yet during his lifetime, their creator was an enigma. In his years at Dartmouth, Oxford, New York, and Hollywood, mingling with the famous and notorious, he remained reclusive and plagued by self-doubts, but never lost his love of childish playfulness.

Was Ted Geisel really a genius, as his publisher Bennett Cerf believed, or, as he himself always insisted, just lucky? In forty-seven books of nonsensical charm, from And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street in 1937 to Oh, the Places You’ll Go! in 1990, his recurring theme was that children had an inalienable right to mischief, love, and hope. But many librarians and teachers consider him a subversive influence when his revolutionary Cat in the Hat signaled the demise of dreary Dick-and-Jane primers.

Ted Geisel was a dreamer who saw the world “through the wrong end of a telescope.” In his eighty-seven years, he met seven U.S. presidents, but was more proud of the fact that he had seen Halley’s Comet twice. An obsessively private man, he rarely revealed anything of his personal and professional agonies - or of the bawdy Seussian verses he wrote for friends.

Judith and Neil Morgan knew Ted Geisel in the latter half of his life, and here they merge their firsthand insights with scholarly research, drawing material from hundreds of letters and interviews, as well as from their subject’s notes for an unpublished autobiography. They had full access to Geisel’s voluminous papers, illuminating his relationship with both of his wives and providing instructive glimpses of his creative processes. The result is a frank and felicitous biography as unique as its subject.
Title: Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel
Author: Judith & Neil Morgan
Start & Finished: Long Term Read-6/18/08
Published: 1995
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 293
Genre: Biography

Dr. Seuss’ (aka Theodore Geisel) wonderful rhyming stories have been a part of people’s lives for many decades now. Some of his first books may not have been bestsellers but as his bibliography list grew so did his popularity. Over the years, it has launched movies, music, theme parks and even a Broadway musical. And to think that it all started on Mulberry Street!

I’ve been fond of Dr. Seuss’ many stories for as long as I can remember, something I have in common with almost everyone in the whole world now. Of the forty something books published by him, I think my favorite Dr. Seuss book would have to be Green Eggs and Ham. I remember when the teacher read it to our class when I was in kindergarten and afterwards we actually had green eggs and ham for lunch! Plus, it’s amazing that it was only 50 words long and still such a great story.

Judith and Neil Morgan did such a wonderful job capturing the life of this whimsical, iconic man. Their descriptions paint such beautiful pictures in your mind and I was so pleased that they obviously did their homework when researching Mr. Geisel. Not only did the interview countless people who knew him but they also dug up tons of information that I didn’t know (like he was a part of the war effort making wartime cartoons, Gerald McBoing-Boing was his idea, and he was co-founder of the Random House Beginners Books). They were also friends and neighbors so I doubt anyone else could have captured him so well.

Related Posts: Dr. Seuss Animated Adaptations, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, & Halloween is Grinch Night

Links: Dr. Seuss (Wikipedia), Dr. Seuss Wiki (wikia), The Animated Seuss (Animated Views), Dr. Seuss' Art (American Archives), Fansite (Fanpop), Obituary, Cake Challenge
Official Sites: Dr. Seuss Memorial & Seussville


  1. I'm glad to see this review for a book that's been out a while. I'll have to check it out and learn more about "Dr. Seuss"; his books have been a big influence on my young readers.

  2. I don't often read biographies, but Dr Seuss sounds like such an intriguing man. Maybe I'll give this one a try some day. Also, I love that stamp you posted!

  3. My mom always makes green eggs and hams on Dr. Suess' birthday for her class. :-) They love it. Every year I ask her why she never did that for my brother and I when we were growing up. :-)

    He has had an amazing impact on so many of us. This sounds like a biography well worth reading.

  4. Dawn: I love doing posts on older books that you won't find that many posts about! I really did like this biography and learning more about him.

    Nymeth: I only recently started reading them myself. I love trivia and facts though so I guess it was only natural that I would like biographies too! The stamp is one of my favorite pictures posted here. :)

    Wendy: I know, that would have been an even better memory if my mom or grandma would have made it for me... Maybe I would have been less picky about eating the green eggs! Even though I knew he died before this was published I still cried when I reached that part. He was such an amazing person.

  5. wonderful post tink.
    I grew up reading Dr. Suess and so did my kids. Those books are timeless.
    My daughters kindergarden teacher also fed the class green eggs and ham after they first read the book :)
    I think my favorite Dr Suess is How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

  6. Sounds like an interesting book. I never read Dr. Seuss as a kid. My mom couldn't tolerate his nonsense words, so there weren't any Seuss books in our house. When my daughter was a toddler, I started introducing her to Seuss, and I read many of his books for the first time. We love his books, and we love to read them together.

    Diary of an Eccentric



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