There were several other topics I was planning to do for today (Devil’s Tower or maybe the creation of the Attorney General’s office), but they’ll just have to wait. I decided to put them aside when I saw that Theodor Geisel had passed away on September 24, 1991. Geisel’s name probably means little to you, though the teaster photo likely gives the gig away. But Geisel’s middle name is legendary. Its mention brings instant recognition, takes many of us back to our childhoods, and conjures up some of our earliest memories. That name is…Seuss.
Yep, Geisel is none other than the immortal Dr. Seuss. And like my other favorite doctor, Dr. Science, Seuss wasn’t a real doctor, though his intentions were to study for a doctorate of Philosophy. But advanced degree or no, Seuss has provided children (and not a few adults) with some of the most entertaining books ever.
It’s hard to really describe a Seuss book, simply because they’re so completely different from any other children’s book. Most books tell a simple story, so there’s a plot, and flow, and at least a little character development. And some of Seuss’ books do that a little…I’m thinking of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (one of Seuss’ first books). They’re books that move toward an end. But many others simply have no real point at all. They bob and weave from idea to idea and from topic to topic in a most precarious way. Plot? Forget about it. Characters? Who cares, they’re creatures that don’t even exist anyway.
But in a way, those are the perfect books for children. They’re silly, they have creatures with fantastic names, they’re beautifully illustrated, and they defy any kind of categorization…except as “classics for children”.
Seuss wrote dozens of books in his lifetime, many of them enormously popular. You’ve probably read some of them (or at least looked at the dazzling artwork). The Cat in the Hat is, quite possibly, the most popular children’s book of all time. If it isn’t, Green Eggs and Ham wouldn’t be far from the top. The 500 Hats… was a favorite of mine (I always loved it when, after about 400 hats or so, the feathers started appearing), I’ve read Hop on Pop, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?, and If I Ran the Circus.
But my favorite Dr. Seuss book is, without question, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The story is so simple, the rhyming is so clever, and as a children’s tale, it takes a light-hearted approach to an important lesson that every child needs to know: you don’t have to have lots of stuff (or even anything at all) to be happy.
Of course, Boris Karloff’s narration of the Grinch cartoon is superb, and I watch the video version every single year around Christmas (“Why, the Grinch even took the last can of Who-hash!“)…my wife bought me the DVD.
So, while Theodor Geisel/Dr. Seuss left us on this day, he left us with an astounding collection of terrific books that children will enjoy for generations to come.
Recommended Reading: How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Read this Dr. Seuss classic. It might take you 15 minutes or so.