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Theodor Seuss Geisel grew up loving animals, reading and drawing and was able to incorporate the things that he loved into a life of great works. Theodor, better known as Dr. Seuss, is one of the most beloved children's authors of the twentieth century (www.catinthehat.org). Even though he is most famous as an author of children's books, Geisel was also a political cartoonist, advertisement designer, and film director. He used the power of imagination to produce unforgettable children's books and helped solve the problem of illiteracy among America's children (www.seussville.com).
Ted's father would take the family to the Springfield Zoo where he was superintendent. At dinnertime, Ted's father would tell him and his sister stories about the animals at the zoo. He loved animals very much; he loved watching them and would bring a notebook and pencils so he could sketch pictures. Ted liked taking parts of one animal and drawing them on another. He would sometimes even draw pictures of animals on the walls. He always made sure he had pencils and crayons with him wherever he went. Theodore had a stuffed dog named Theophrastus that he slept with every night (Levine19).
In high school Ted was a good student and was happy with getting B's. His favorite subject was English. Even though Ted loved to draw, he only took one art class and had a bad experience with it. Since he loved exaggerating things; like drawing a creature with nine foot long ears, or making horses and cows fly, or plants that look like animals and animals that look like plants. The art teacher told Ted that a true artist would never do such things and that he did not have any artistic talent. That was Ted's first and last art class, yet he was able to combine his interest in writing and drawing on the school newspaper. He drew cartoons, wrote jokes, and poems (www.seussville.com).
Ted's favorite English teacher encouraged him to apply to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. When Ted was ready for college, he applied and got accepted. He started in September of 1921. Everyone knew Ted was talented, although they didn't know how exactly. While at Dartmouth, he became part of the college newspaper and a humor magazine called the Jack-O-Lantern, where he created cartoons. Ted spent so much time working on the newspaper that his grades were suffering, averaging a C. In Ted's second year at college he became a part of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and got involved with other activities (Levine 20-21).
In Ted's third year, his grades were improving and he became the Editor-in-Chief of Jacko. In his fourth year he took several English courses, including writing, poetry, and literature. Ted also was very social and ended up in some trouble. He got caught drinking alcohol when it was illegal so the school put him on probation. After that incident he had to resign as the editor-in-chief of Jacko (www.catinthehat.org). Ted wanted to continue to write and draw but could not have his name appear in the magazine. He made up names like: L. Burbank, Thos. Mottsborne, D.G. Rossetti and Seuss.
Ted would write under a variety of different names. One name, T.S. LeSieg, was Geisel spelled backwards (Levine20). Eventually he started signing his name "Dr. Theophrastus Seuss." He got that name from his stuffed dog but then shortened it to "Dr. Seuss". He took on the pen name of Dr. Seuss during his college years so that he could continue writing for the college magazine in which he was banned. Ted chose that name by dropping his first and last name and published an article using his middle name Seuss and the title Dr. before it, in acknowledgement of his dad's wish that he would one day get his Doctorate from Oxford (Levine28-29).
After college Ted had no money or job offers and did not want to go home to his parents. Ted was interested in an advanced degree in English literature so he applied for a grant to attend Oxford University in England. Ted did not win the grant but since his father had already bragged to people about it, he paid for Ted to go. Ted began attending Lincoln College, a part of Oxford University, at the age of twenty-one. He took English literature courses and studied great English writers but got very bored. In class his mind would often wander and he spent most of the classes drawing. While there Ted met and spent time with Helen Palmer a girl from New Jersey. She encouraged him and his drawings when no one else did (Cohen66-67).
In 1927, Ted and Helen returned to the United States and got engaged. Ted would not get married until he had a steady income. He would take his portfolio to publishers, ad agencies and film companies looking for a job as a writer or artist. Ted would also send his funny articles and drawings to many New York magazines and newspapers. He had his first cartoon published in the Saturday Evening Post, a major magazine, and was paid twenty five dollars. At the age of twenty-two, Ted packed his things and headed for New York City. He moved into a tiny apartment in Greenwich Village. Ted got a job as a writer and artist for Judge Magazine. On November 29, 1927, Ted and Helen got married (www.seussville.com).
Ted sold cartoons and humorous articles to magazines such as Life and Vanity Fair. He also worked on ads for NBC Radio and Ford Motor Company. In 1935, Ted created a comic strip called "Hejji by Dr. Seuss". He worked on his book And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street for six months and was rejected by twenty-seven publishers. Finally in 1937, at the age of thirty-three, his first book was published selling more than ten thousand copies. This encouraged Ted and one year later he published The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (www.catinthehat.org).
Ted joined the army During World War II and was sent to Hollywood. There he wrote documentaries for the military. McElligot's Pool was Ted's first postwar book which he dedicated to his father the fisherman. It was the first to win a Caldecott Honor citation from the American Library Association and remains many people's favorite Dr. Seuss book. Two more Caldecott books followed, Bartholomew and the Oobleck and If I Ran the Zoo (orpheus.ucsd.edu).
In 1954, Helen was diagnosed with a nervous disorder and ended up with paralysis and could not do anything, but towards the end of the year she started to recover. In 1956 an article was written in Life magazine on how there are no books for beginner readers that were interesting. The result was the big success of the 1957 classic, The Cat in the Hat. That same year another success and another classic was, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In 1959 Dr. Seuss was the highest paid author for that year earning two hundred thousand dollars (Nel 168-169).
Ted was approached to make a television show out of one of his books. On December 18, 1966, How the Grinch Stole Christmas aired. Just when he finally stopped worrying about his finances, Helen committed suicide on October 23, 1967. He dealt with his grief by focusing on writing and published more books. In 1968, Ted marries Audrey Stone Dimond a longtime friend of his and Helens (www.catinthehat.org).
In 1984, Ted received a special Pulitzer Prize for his contributions to children's literature along with honorary doctorates from seven universities (Levine 9). Ted published many more books, his last and fastest selling one in 1990 called Oh, the Places You'll Go! Theodor Seuss Geisel died on September 24, 1991 at the age of eighty-seven. His forty-seven books sold more than 200 million copies and had been translated into twenty languages. To honor the great children's author there is the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 2001 his books, The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham were on the top ten best-selling children's books of all time (www.seussville.com).
Theodor used his experiences in life as a foundation for most of his books and was able to shape the character of many of his readers, as well as teach children messages through a unique writing style that incorporated various elements and techniques. Through a few of his books, Geisel incorporates multiple messages including relationships with others, the importance of global and earth awareness, and the dangers of materialism (Levine 37-40).
Along with being mesmerizing and entertaining, Dr. Seuss' books are also educational because he uses literary techniques to teach readers moral lessons. He was known to be a perfectionist and it was said that he would on his children's books for hours upon hours. Theodor once stated, "The creative process boiled down to two things - time and sweat."
In several of his children's books, Geisel adds more and more tension, building up to the climax only to end in an anticlimactic way. For example, in The Cat in the Hat, suspense increases as the mess the Cat makes becomes unmanageable. The illustrations add to this tension as the children's mother is set to arrive. However, just before she enters the door, the mess is cleaned and sparkling new. Although his writing style has remained unchanged in his years of writing, Dr. Seuss was still able to make reading fun and enjoyable to kids of all ages.