|Theodore Seuss Geisel|
One of the joys about being a writer is getting to talk about your heroes. To talk about people who have influenced you, one way or another; who have had an impact on your endeavors, on your character, and on your work with or for other people. For me, one of those people was (and still is) the late Theodore Geisel a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, who celebrates his 112th birthday this coming Wednesday. Like fellow late artists Charles Schultz and Jim Henson, Geisel was a master of his craft (children’s author and illustrator of over 44 books), as well as a national treasure that spread to universal appeal for children and adults. He will always be known for his use of the written word, his love for rhymes and languages, and his complete freedom, idiosyncrasy and imagination with words, characters and worlds. His books have been translated into over 15 different languages, with over 200 million copies of each book sold worldwide.
My personal favorites include “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (a perennial holiday classic), “Horton Hatches the Egg” (a character I consider a fictitious hero, like Doug Funnie), “Oh Say Can You Say!” (a collection of brilliant tongue-twisters), “Hop on Pop” (“the simplest Seuss for the youngest use”), “The Sneetches and Other Stories,” and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” One other such book is not very well-known to several readers, titled “My Many Colored Days.” Geisel wrote the manuscript in the early-1970s, but it was never published, at his request, until the mid-1990s. His dream for said manuscript was to give “a great color artist who will not be dominated by me” an opportunity to contribute to his work. In 1995 (four years after Geisel’s death), his request was met, by illustrators Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. The resulting images in this book are striking and painterly, yet Seuss’s typical rhyme and meter remain (for those of you who read closely).
More importantly, Seuss wrote this manuscript as a concept book to creatively express and teach different human emotions and feelings—a precursor to Pixar’s “Inside Out,” if you will. It has, in recent years, become a hallmark for me to read to elementary students, having tutored K-3 children for three years. Such a hallmark fits one of many that have inspired others to not only learn how to read, but also to have fun doing it, to not be afraid to take risks, and to help fill the world with creative, imagination, and, yes, a little absurdity. Geisel, after all, did write, “From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”