Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

I thought the young woman in front of me in checkout must have been a teacher with her stack of poster board sheets so I started a conversation. She was not. It turns out she was buying them to make large striped hats for a birthday party for her friend’s four-year-old. He shares a birthday today with Dr. Seuss. Cats in hats will be in attendance.

A wonderment began in my head as I considered what his whimsical books have brought to the children’s book world and to mine. I began with connections that started with my mother’s children’s literature course at Ole Miss when she brought home And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. This one still gives me comfort as the stories of how many times it was rejected vary from twenty to twenty-seven. (More on this story @ http://childrensbookalmanac.com/…/and-to-think-that-i-saw-) Let’s just say the rejections, and hopefully my persistence, give me something in common with Dr. Seuss.

Moving to my offspring and theirs, I follow with the oldest son tagging along with Bartholomew Cubbins up the turret stairs snatching off the 500 hats and wonder why few people place my quote “. . . just happened to happen and was not very likely to happen again.” Then his two siblings learned to read with the series of Dr. Seuss’s ABC, Hop on Pop, and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Naturally the grandson named Sam got a Sam-I-am mug to drink from as he read (and sometimes ate) Green Eggs and Ham. All of them were readied for bed with Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book. As you can see in the picture, they lovingly wore the covers right off the books.

My kindergarteners and second graders followed suit, and as time went on we even wound up with a book for older children and adults. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! makes a great gift for graduation or retirement.

I only know one caveat in this bit of admiration. Editors have been known to turn down manuscripts as “too Seussian.” Looking at his work, he does a lot of simple rhyming of cup and up, Sam and ham, cat and hat. But somehow, he also figures out how to turn that rhyme on a funny ear – “Every whale in the ocean has turned off its spout. Every light between here and Far Foodle is out.”

How appropriate that the National Education Association has named his birthday, March 2, as Read Across America Day in his honor. (http://www.readacrossamerica.org

Although Dr. Seuss himself has been gone from us for twenty-five years, my birthday wish remains, “Many happy returns in the lives of children and in adults who dredge up their inner child.”