Dr. Seuss

The Life and Times of Dr. Seuss

A PROSPEROUS & PATRIOTIC CHILDHOOD

Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2, 1904, in Springfield, Massachusetts. The town was booming, with several large manufacturing companies and a thriving population of German immigrants. Ted’s grandfather and father owned a successful brewery, and the future Dr. Seuss grew up in the midst of a bustling, prosperous extended family. A child during World War I, Ted acquired a sense of patriotism that would remain with him his entire life. As a Scout, he worked to sell U.S. War Bonds. In an oft-told story, he sold so many that he was supposed to receive an award, along with 10 other boys, from President Theodore Roosevelt. However, during the awards ceremony, Roosevelt found that he had only nine medals to give, and when he got to Ted, standing at the end of the row, he asked, “What’s this boy doing here?” For the rest of his life, Geisel suffered from acute stage fright, and sometimes skipped speaking engagements altogether.

Ted-at-deskTRADING ACADEMIA FOR STORYTELLING

As Prohibition loomed and threatened to put his father out of business, Geisel was accepted into Dartmouth College. Enrolled as an English major, he proved to be only a mediocre student. Ted divided his time between his studies and writing for the Dartmouth humor magazine, Jack-o-Lantern. It was there that he discovered his love of designing books with pictures and words, though he said it took him “almost a quarter of a century” before he felt he had succeeded.

As Geisel’s senior year came to a close, his father asked where he’d be going next. When Ted answered that he’d gotten a scholarship to study at Lincoln College in Oxford, his father immediately passed the news on to the town newspaper, who published it the next day. Unfortunately, Geisel was exaggerating a bit when he said he’d “gotten” the scholarship; he’d applied, but ultimately was rejected. Nevertheless, his father sent Geisel to England in 1925 for a three-year stay.

Ted-with-CatAN INNOVATOR FINDS HIS MUSE

It was during his time in Europe that Ted met his first wife, another American student named Helen Palmer. Geisel often told the story of how he and Helen broke the news of their relationship to Helen’s mother. The first night Mrs. Palmer met Geisel, Helen, out of the blue, said, “Mother, what do you think of ‘this’ as a husband?” “But I don’t even know his name!” her mother exclaimed. Geisel reached into his billfold and pulled out a piece of paper. “Madam,” he said, “my card.”

After Geisel and Helen married and moved to New York City, he started to get work in magazines and advertisements. His “Quick, Henry, The Flit!” campaign for Flit bug spray was legendary, and he soon branched out into other Standard Oil products, where his unique illustrations seemed to have the power to sell virtually anything. During this time, he published his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

WORDS IN THE MIDST OF WAR

As World War II loomed, Geisel found himself increasingly drawn to the war effort. He had no sympathy for isolationists, and criticized them copiously along with the leaders of Japan, Germany, and Italy. He wound up in Hollywood, doing animation and screenplays for Colonel Frank Capra’s propaganda unit. At one point, while taking a film to Europe to present to various generals, he found himself stuck behind enemy lines. Thankfully, he was rescued soon after by U.S. troops.

Ted-with-books_216x322After the war, the Geisels, who were now living in La Jolla, California, took a trip to Japan to work on a cultural piece for Life magazine. Tiring of the movie business, Geisel wanted to spend more time on his children’s books. With the advent of the baby boomer generation, children’s books were in high demand, and “Dr. Seuss” became the acknowledged master. He held exceptionally high standards for himself and the people he worked with, including his wife, Helen, who authored the Beginner BookA Fish Out of Water. Geisel was well-known at the publisher’s office for paying close attention to the details of printing, particularly with regard to the colors used in his illustrations.

A LEGENDARY PARTNERSHIP ENDS

After a long illness, Geisel’s wife Helen died in 1967, a year after his first TV cartoon aired. Geisel was grief-stricken. In addition to overseeing his business functions, his wife had served as his primary companion, collaborator, and motivator.

TheodorSeussGeisel3PROLIFIC LATER YEARS

After remarrying to Audrey Stone Diamond, he resumed his hectic schedule. Geisel produced films nearly every year through the 1970s, and two to three books a year almost without pause between 1957 and 1976. After 1980 he slowed down, publishing one book a year, then every two years, until his final book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, was published in 1990. At the age of 87, Theodor Seuss Geisel passed away from oral cancer on September 24, 1991 in his home in California.

Photos © Seuss Enterprises

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PD-Eastman

In addition to his studio experience, Eastman indulged his creativity by authoring and illustrating children’s books. Writing under the pen name of P.D. Eastman, the author was inspired by the style of the famous Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss). Born in 1904, Dr. Seuss was Eastman’s contemporary; the two even collaborated on The Cat in the Hat Dictionary. Although Eastman wrote in his own unique voice, his books were branded as Dr. Seuss™ Beginner Books.

In 1941, Eastman married Mary Louise Whitman. The couple had two sons, Alan Eastman and Peter Anthony (Tony) Eastman. Tony went on to become a children’s author and animator himself, providing some of the illustrations for his father’s book Big Dog… Little Dog.

Eastman joined several eminent organizations throughout his career, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Westport Artists, the Screen Cartoonist’s Guild, and the Audubon Society. By the time of his death on January 7, 1986, Phil (P.D.) Eastman had written and/or illustrated 18 children’s books, many of which enjoyed national acclaim. His titles continue to inspire, educate, and entertain beginning readers in homes, schools, and libraries across the country.

AMONG P.D. EASTMAN’S MOST POPULAR TITLES ARE:

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8 WAYS FAMILIES BENEFIT FROM DR. SEUSS BOOKS

No two parents are exactly alike, but most share a common goal: to provide the best for their children. Above and beyond the obvious basic needs—cribs, changing tables, strollers, clothing—proper guidance and support are essential to helping your little one achieve important developmental milestones. Formal education may not begin until preschool, but your child actually begins learning from the very first day he or she enters the world.

Encouraging your child to embrace the joys of reading is one of the most important things you can do to help ensure her academic success, social and communication skills, healthy expression of emotions, and cognitive development. Early reading has also been shown to foster better memory, concentration, and vocabulary skills later in life.

 

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The Dr. Seuss & His Friends book club was created to help parents build a library of insightful, entertaining books for their children to enjoy. While it’s certainly possible—and encouraged—to create your own family reading routine, joining a book club can offer an abundance of advantages to both parents and children.

WHY JOIN ONE OF OUR BOOK CLUBS?

  1. Recapture your childhood. Return to a more carefree, lighthearted time by embracing the same classic favorites you enjoyed as a youngster—this time through the eyes of your own children—when you join the Dr. Seuss & His Friends book club.
  2. Connect with your family. Sharing a book by Dr. Seuss or one of the other well-known authors in the club—P.D. Eastman, Stan and Jan Berenstain, Robert Lopshire, and Richard Scarry, among others—provides an excellent opportunity to cuddle up with your children and page through a family-friendly story, forging bonds that will endure for a lifetime.
  3. Help soothe your child. From a very early age, infants have shown a proclivity for their parent’s voice, heartbeat, and smell. Reading Dr. Seuss titles out loud while holding your baby close helps to create a calming, nurturing environment and establish a love of reading early on.
  4. Create a relaxing routine. Reading is one of the most calming activities you can incorporate into your child’s day, providing a welcome break from the typically frenzied nature of modern family life. Use your favorite Dr. Seuss stories to prepare kids for bedtime or naptime, or just to provide some downtime for relaxing and unwinding.
  5. brp_nursery_library For an educational, cost-effective learning tool that’s also highly entertaining, you can’t beat the power of books. Encourage your children to maintain their own personal libraries of Dr. Seuss characters. When you join the Dr. Seuss & His Friends book club, they can swap and share among themselves, “checking out” books from siblings’ libraries. When you join our book club, you’ll receive easily digestible monthly shipments of titles hand-picked by today’s educational experts, tailored to your child’s age range and interests.
  6. Foster creativity and imagination. The uncontested master of creative verse, Dr. Seuss adhered to a poetic meter called anapestic tetrameter to create his innovative, rhythmic rhymes. His unique wordplay and whimsical tongue twisters are ideal for building the imaginations of your little ones.
  7. Provide an interactive reading experience. The stories in the Dr. Seuss & His Friends book club are meant to be performed, not read silently. Incorporate drama and inflection into each verse, demonstrating to your children how fun and interactive reading can be.
  8. Read, enjoy, and repeat. Toddlers thrive on routine. The rhythmic nature of the verses presented by Dr. Seuss and various other wonderful children’s book authors is conducive to repetition. After “The End,” you can fully expect to hear “Again!”
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