Because of the hardships he had to overcome, the impact he left on young children, and the criticism he received from others, Theodor Seuss Geisel will always be remembered as the author, “Dr. Seuss, a man with a limitless imagination”. Both his mother and father played a big part in helping Geisel become who he was. From a young age his parents were able to see that he had potential. When his father would take him to the zoo, Geisel found himself drawing some of the animals he would see.
Even though his sister, Margaretha Christine Geisel, would make fun of his illustrations because they were greatly out of proportion, he always stayed true to his unique style and way of thinking. When his father realized how talented Geisel was, he wanted Geisel to send a drawing to The Youth’s Companion magazine to see what they thought of Geisel’s abilities. They said, “Yes…he had talent” (Morgan12). From then on out his father urged him to keep on drawing. “While his father encouraged [Geisel] in his drawing, [his mother] fostered his awareness of the pleasures of words” (Morgan 14).
His mother always wanted to go to college but wasn’t able to because she had to tend to her father’s bakery. So she wanted to make sure her children would be able to get a good education and go to college. She started off by reading to them. She would read bed time storied to them to try to encourage them that reading can be fun and succeeded. Geisel later stated that, more than anyone else, his mother was responsible “for the rhythms in which I write and the urgency with which I do it” (Morgan 7).
Even though his parents were always there for him, they weren’t able to protect him from the ridicule he received living through World War I as a child. It was hard being a German family living in the United States during the 1917’s which was when the US Congress officially declared war against Germany. “Suddenly [Geisel’s] German descent was no longer a mantle of pride but one of shame” (Levine 15). There were even reports of Germans being stoned in the cities that were nearby. Geisel and his sister soon started to discuss ways to try to avoid the harassment they would receive at school.
One of Geisel’s schoolmates told him “that he was being described as ‘the German brewer’s kid with the three-legged dog” (Levine 16). He would try to play it off that it didn’t bother him, but the results of the mockery he received showed up in some of his later writings. “The books he later became famous for were often written about characters who were different, exclude, or persecuted” (Levine 17). Geisel’s first wife, Helen Palmer Geisel, also influenced him in his career choice. Geisel and Ms. Palmer both were students at Oxford University when they met. Ms.
Palmer always believed that Geisel was fit to take on a career in art. “Ted grew to respect the academic discipline he discovered at Dartmouth” and from then on out, he wanted to become a professor (Morgan 28). But when Ms. Palmer caught him doodling in class, she suggested that being a college professor didn’t suit him. She told him, “You’re crazy to be a professor… What you really want to do is draw” (Morgan 45). But Geisel didn’t officially change his career choice until later on. He realized what he really wanted to do when he was vacationing in France with Ms. Palmer.
He stated that “he had had enough of university study, he would never teach school” (Morgan 48). He then decided to not only take a career in art, but in literature as well. Geisel wanted to empower children and attempted to do so in his books. He felt that he should be able to do more than just simply entertain young children. He wanted to be able to teach them things about the real world. At first Geisel tried to camouflage the messages he would incorporate in his books. In Horton Hears a Who! , Geisel tried to demonstrate to children the importance of equal rights.
While at the same time he tries to show the values of anti-discrimination in The Sneetchs. Later on, Geisel started to become less concerned about hiding these messages. “His purpose in each of those [later] books has been to challenge readers of all ages, including younger ones, to action, in order to resolve dire threats to life as we know it” (Levine 74). His approach to more serious topics angered many. Numerous people, especially parents, thought that The Butter Battle Book wasn’t appropriate for children because it deals with universal death.
While The Lorax angered various people because they felt that it attacked their likelihood. Geisel states that “children are smart enough to understand these issues; they need not be helpless victims” (Levine 74). To him, empowering them and encouraging independence is one of the main goals in all of his works for children. Geisel didn’t only want to empower children but also wanted to encourage them to read and to not be afraid to use their imagination. He wanted his young readers to not only enjoy reading his books, but to get something out of them. Geisel wanted to drive them to develop their reading skills.
He wrote books with a vocabulary that was appropriate for beginning readers. It is said that children learn how to read more quickly with rhymes so he intentionally wrote most of his books with rhymes. Geisel wanted to introduce children into the wonderful world of reading. He was also able to inspire many people to go above and beyond the so called limitations of the imagination. “His books encouraged readers to treasure wild flights of imagination” (MacDonald). Geisel wanted to help his young readers expand their imagination, which would also encourage brain development.
He had always loved to read and he did not want the young readers to miss out on this pleasure. Geisel is thought to be one of the best children’s book authors. “For most people the thought of growing up in a world without Green Eggs and Ham, Grinches, and Cats in Hats is barely conceivable” (Levine 10). Children throughout the world have grown up with the wonderful books created by “Dr. Seuss”. “These odd creations occupy a special place in the earliest memories of children around the world” (Levine 10). He has been able to not only capture their minds but their hearts as well.
Geisel’s colorful imagination, upbeat rhymes, and unique illustrations seem to have no limits. He has written books that range from simply humorous to impressively insightful. This has contributed greatly in him selling more than 200 million copies. To many “Dr. Seuss is by far the best-selling children’s author to date, and perhaps the most beloved” (Levine 10). Many people don’t like change so various people were skeptical when he wrote a book aiming towards a different audience. At the age of eighty-two, Geisel published You’re Only Old Once! which targets a more mature audience.
Many people found this book to be like his other books, entertaining. While others felt that it simply did not meet the same standards that his previous books had held. The New York Times Book Review said, “ There’s some amiss in the blithe assumption that the sort of rhymes which delight a four year-old… will still entertain when read alone through bifocals” (Levine 81-82). However, the book still sold very well and was able to uphold many weeks on the adult best-seller list. You’re Only Old Once! didn’t make any attempt to pass as a children’s book.
It was written mainly for adults and was subtitled “A Book for Obsolente Children”, which was Geisel’s way for showing it (Levine 82). Even though many people disagreed whether with book was a children’s book or not, it gathered mixed feelings. Even though many found pleasure in reading Geisel’s books, there were those who did not like the messages portrayed in some. After the war, he started to write some activist children’s books like Horton Hears a Who! , The Sneetches, and Yertle the Turtle. But none were as controversial as The Lorax and The Butter Battle Book. Most people who read
The Lorax see it as a wonderful and important tale. Some, however, do not appreciate its message” (Levine 77). Since this book is focused on environmental conservation, many members of the logging and paper mill industry felt that this book attacked their jobs. One father was especially upset when his second grader came home from school after reading The Lorax and asked him “why he was destroying the forest” (Levine 77). He became infuriated and organized some members from his logging company to try to have the book banned from school. They claimed that “our kids are being brain washed.
We’ve got to stop this crap right now! ” (Levine 77). Even though this created a heated debate in a school board meeting, they decided to keep The Lorax on the shelves. Geisel’s responded to these complaints by stating “that the book is not a direct attack against specific U. S. industries but about his frustration over the irresponsible waste of natural resources” (Levine 77). Although The Lorax created quite an uproar, none of Geisel’s books caused as much controversy as The Butter Battle Book. This book focused on the dangers of nuclear war and because of this many parents became concerned.
They would say that the subject was simply too frightening for a child. Many parents didn’t want their children to be exposed to those kinds of books. One of the biggest problem, however, was about the ending. He intentionally left “the ending hanging in the balance” (Levine 79). Some suggest that he did this in order to send the message that nuclear warfare is an unresolved issues. Despite the fact that Geisel angered a number of people with his atavist books, he was still known for his colorful imagination and numerous talents.
From a young age, those around him were able to see that he was very talented. Every time his father would take him to the zoo, Geisel would bring a note pad and draw some of the animals he would see. Even though he would draw them out of proportion, his father was able to see that he had talent so he summited one of drawings to The Youth’s Companion magazine. When his father received a response, they too said that Geisel was in fact very talented. Even before he wrote one of his most popular books, The Cat in the Hat, Geisel’s talents were already very well respected.
In fact they were so well respected that he was invited to his alma mater for a very special honor. Thirty years after he attended Dartmouth University, he was granted an honorary doctorate degree. When the Dartmouth University president, John Sloan Dickey, presented it to him he said, “As author and artist you single-handedly have stood… between a generation of exhausted parents and the demon dragons of exhausted children on a rainy day… As always with the best humor, behind the fun there has been intelligence, kindness, and a feel for humankind” (Levine 83).
As years passed, Geisel gained more popularity and won more honorary doctorates throughout his life from universities such as Princeton, Brown, and Hartford. He was recognized as “an artist, a poet, a provocateur, and a marketing genius”, which are an unusual combination of talents (“Impertinent”). Although Geisel is not with us anymore, his works continue to bring joy and inspire children around the world. Theodor Seuss Geisel wasn’t simply a children’s books author, but a teacher as well. He taught children that reading should never be a chore, but a pleasure.
He encouraged them to allow their imaginations run wild and disregard the opinions of others. Geisel didn’t let the mockery he received as a child effect his career choice. In fact, this became his motivation later in life. By what Theodor Seuss Geisel had to experience growing up in a German family, the impact he left to those who read his wonderful works, and the judgment he received, he will always be by far the best children’s books author and will forever remain in the hearts of those he influenced.