The story behind the title of Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss’ books have been around for 108 years now. We all have come across some of his brilliant work during our childhood. His books have expanded our imagination and also challenged us to make the world a better place. Seuss’ books not only made reading fun for kids but also elevated the act of learning.
In reality, your favorite fictional writer’s name was not Dr. Seuss, it was Theodor Geisel.
- He attended Dartmouth College, where he worked as an Editor-in-Chief for the humor magazine Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern. After throwing a raging party, and breaking the Prohibition Law, he was fired from the job as the Editor. However, Geisel continued writing in Jack-O-Lantern under the pseudonym Seuss. Seuss was his mother’s maiden name as well as his middle name. Years later after his first book was published, he added a title “Dr” as a joke at the expense of his father, who always wanted him to pursue a medical career.
Later, he received an honorary doctorate granted by his Alma Mater, Dartmouth, in 1956.
He didn’t like kids much
Even though the books were a hit with children, Dr. Seuss was not a fan of children. His widow Audrey even reported of him being afraid of children. She said he couldn’t play with them, and always kept thinking, “What they might ask next?”, or “What they might do next?”
He once said, “You have ‘em, I’ll amuse ‘em.”
A chance sidewalk encounter led to Dr. Seuss’ first children’s book
27 publishers rejected his first manuscript. While walking dejectedly along the sidewalks of New York on Madison Avenue, planning to burn the book in his apartment, he bumped into Dartmouth friend Mike McClintock, who had started a job as an editor in the Vanguard Press (children’s section) that very morning. Within hours, they signed a contract and published ‘And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street’ in 1937.
Dr. Seuss later said, “ If I had been going down the other side of Madison Avenue, I’d be in the dry cleaning business today”.
He coined the word “nerd”
- The first recorded instance of the word “nerd” is in Seuss’ ‘If I ran a Zoo’ published in 1950.
‘Horton Hears a Who’ Is about Japan
- This book was not just about an elephant hearing tiny voices, but a metaphor for the importance big people (government) listening to the little ones. It is an allegory for America’s treatment of post-war Japan. The small country needed the support of a large country to get back on its feet after the devastation of World War II. Dr. Seuss wrote this book after he visited Japan, eight years after the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombings. The book was dedicated to his friend Mitsugi Nakamura, of Kyoto, Japan.
He wrote ‘Cats in the Hat’ with the intention of killing Dick and Jane
- He thought Fun with Dick and Jane children’s books were very boring. A director at Houghton Mifflin sent Seuss a list of about 348 words kids should know and then challenged him to write book kids couldn’t put down with only 225 of those words in it. In the end, the book uses 236 of the words used by children. It took him 9 months to complete the book due to word restriction.
‘Green Eggs and Ham’ came out of a bet
- Bennett Cerf, the co-founder of Random House, challenged Dr. Seuss in 1960, saying “I’ll bet you $50 that you can’t write a book using only with fifty words.”
- Despite Dr. Seuss winning the bet by producing one of his most popular works ‘Green Eggs and Ham‘ using exactly 50 unique words, Cerf never paid up.
He wrote ‘Yertle the Turtle’ about Hitler
- After some speculation, Dr. Seuss admitted that he did base the story of ‘Yertle the Turtle’ on Hitler. (The power-hungry turtle was a direct representation of the dictator). But that wasn’t the big controversy of the book. The controversial part was the turtle burping in the end. According to Dr. Seuss. the publisher at Random House along with the President had to meet to decide whether or not they could use “burp” because “nobody had ever burped before on the pages of a children’s book.”