Dr. Seuss’s children’s books aren’t exactly comics, no, but they’re kissing cousins.
And like many comics readers — many readers, period — I started out with such classics as One Fish, Two Fish and The Cat in the Hat. While it’s not widely known, however, those books were preceded in the Seuss oeuvre by a short-lived 1935 newspaper strip called Hejji.
Yesterday would have been Theodore Seuss Geisel’s 105th birthday. In honor of the event, Google changed the logo on its homepage to spell out its name in Seuss characters.
During my stint in college as a resident coordinator — most schools call them RAs, resident assistants or advisors — I enjoyed organizing story-time social hours, particularly good for first-year students still transitioning to dorm life. I took out bunches of picture books from the nearby town library; cocoa, milk, and cookies were served. Any students questioning the whole thing regressed with the rest of us once I explained that small groups were encouraged to take turns reading aloud, holding up the books each page to show everyone else the illustrations just as our teachers or librarians did during story time way back when.
Sadly, Dr. Seuss passed away that same year. I vividly recall watching Saturday Night Live with a friend as Jesse Jackson read from Green Eggs and Ham on Weekend Update.
Ted Geisel did more than write and draw books as Dr. Seuss, although he’ll likely always be remembered for the 50-year career that spanned And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street to Oh, The Places You’ll Go! He was a successful commercial artist, selling cartoons to the likes of Vanity Fair and Life, as well as illustrating an immensely popular ad campaign for bug spray that added the phrase “Quick, Henry, the Flit!” to popular lexicon in 1928. Geisel co-founded the Beginner Books imprint at Random House, which launched with The Cat in the Hat in 1957 but also published such other authors as P.D. Eastman and Stan & Jan Berenstain. He wrote the screenplay and lyrics to the bizarre 1953 film The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, and following Chuck Jones’ brilliant adaptation of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas Geisel himself wrote a number of animated television specials.
Among numerous volumes showcasing Geisel’s lesser-known work are The Secret Art
of Dr. Seuss, which offers a look at his astounding oil paintings, and Dr. Seuss Goes to War, reprinting with commentary his political cartoons from World War II; the former is introduced by Maurice Sendak and the latter by Art Spiegleman. If you’d care to explore the man’s more familiar creations from new perspectives there’s Philip Nel’s recent The Annotated Cat: Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats. You can find a Dr. Seuss biography and catalog, plus games based on his books, at the the Seussville website.
Seuss characters are trademarks of Dr. Seuss Enterprises. Photos of The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham are personal copies; please do not reproduce without permission. Other images are copyright year of production their respective holders, used for illuminative purposes only.
Related: Deep Sit • Maurice Sendak 1928-2012 • The Doodles Abide