Dr. Seuss: Oh, The Places He Went!

The National Education Association’s Read Across America campaign celebrated Dr. Seuss Day yesterday, marking the 111th birthday of the celebrated children’s author.

Every year on March 2, the young and young at heart convene in libraries, schools, and community centers countrywide to read Dr. Seuss classics like Green Eggs and Ham and Oh, The Places You’ll Go! Dr. Seuss Day, the Washington Post notes, is “the nation’s largest reading observance.”

Massachusetts-born Dr. Seuss, real name Theodor Seuss Giesel, began as a freelance cartoonist in the 1920s, contributing humor pieces to different magazines. When Standard Oil Company saw Seuss’ cartoon about their “Flit” pesticide, the company promptly hired to create their advertising art, the Poetry Foundation notes.

Seuss’ career as a children’s writer began in 1937. After his first manuscript was rejected for the 27th time, a run-in with a friend at Vanguard Press led that company to publish And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street, History reports. Of the chance encounter, Seuss said: “If I had been going down the other side of Madison Avenue, I’d be in the dry-cleaning business today.”

But it was 1957’s The Cat in the Hat that truly exposed Seuss’ knack for creating engaging, entertaining, and educational stories for children. To quote the Poetry Foundation, the book “provided an attractive alternative to the ‘Dick and Jane’ primers then in use in American schools, and critics applauded its appearance.”

The book caught the eye of Random House, who quickly acquired Seuss’ Beginner Books company, making him president.

Random House executive Judith Haut told Publishers Weekly Seuss’ signature combination of quirky images, intricate plot, and refreshingly simple wordplay “revolutionized how kids learn to read.” He would go on to become the company’s biggest selling author, the Poetry Foundation notes.

During World War II, Seuss lent his talents to the war efforts, creating humorous and often inflammatory cartoons depictions of the Nazis and Japanese for the left-leaning PM publication.

In 1945, the United States War Department hired the author to write Your Job in Germany, a short film used to train U.S. soldiers preparing to exit Germany. It would serve as the basis for the film Hitler Lives, which won in the Documentary Short Subject category at the 18th Academy Awards in 1946, making Dr. Seuss an Oscar-winning writer, History reports.

In recent times, the author became an adamant promoter of vaccines for children, contributing his talents to pro-vaccine campaigns in the 1990s, Huffington Postreports.

The indelible contributions he made to its literary and film legacy was but one of the ways in which Dr. Seuss enriched America’s cultural mosaic. Generations of children for whom Seuss unlocked the magic of reading would go on to achieve in countless areas and experience the truth of the words he so passionately wrote: “The more that you read, the more things you will know; The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Photo Credit: Huffington Post