Today would have been Theodor Seuss Geisel’s 112th birthday.
Better known by his pen name, Dr. Seuss, he authored 44 books for children, many of which have a ubiquitous presence on kids’ bookshelves.
In celebration of his work, here are a few inspirations from his life, and some quotes to live by.
Be persistent and believe in luck
Dr Seuss’ first book, And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was rejected by publishers 20-30 times, depending on which version of the story you hear. The legend goes, as Seuss was walking down Madison Avenue, intent on setting fire to the manuscript when he returned home, he ran into former classmate, Mike McClintock. McClintock had recently been named juvenile editor of Vanguard Press and invited him up to his office to review the work. Vanguard published the book in 1937, and according to Seuss, “If I had been walking down the other side of Madison Avenue, I’d be in the dry cleaning business today.”
I’ve never been been the drug using type, but sometimes I like to trip myself out by thinking of how many things would be different if I had driven a different route, changed a plan, taken a bigger risk. It’s mind-bending to think about, but in some ways, it takes the pressure off. Sure, we can try to control things until knuckles bleed, but at the end of the day, much of it is left to chance.
Never underestimate how long things can take.
In the early 1950’s, an article in Life Magazine explored the lack of excitement in school reading primers such as “Dick and Jane”. The books were flat and boring, and did little in the way of inspiring kids’ imaginations. The article caught the attention of William Spaulding, director of Houghton Mifflin‘s Education Division who then invited Seuss to dinner challenging, “Write me a story that first-graders can’t put down.” Working off a list of 348 words that every six year old should know, provided by Spaulding, Seuss was tasked with composing something that utilized between 200-250 of them.
According to Dr. Seuss, “I figured I could knock it off in a week or so.”
How long did it take to in turn pen The Cat in the Hat? A year and a half.
This lesson is like groundhog day for me. Every morning I struggle to steal a few extra minutes of sleep, grossly miscalculating the minutes that go into stumbling about the house and getting our family out the door. It’s as though I’m visited each night by the Men in Black who erase all the previous day’s memories of a life or death 20 minute manhunt for a playmobil puppy the size of pocket lint. (“Not THAT puppy! The one with the swoopy tail!” “AARGH FOR GODSAKES!”) Someone always has to take a dump just as they’re instructed to put on their jacket, and we never make it out the door and all the way into the car without having to run back for something we’ve forgotten.
At least I’m in good company.
Never said better
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.”
In the interest of being honest, I’ve never actually made it through reading Oh, The Places You’ll Go without getting just a little choked up.
“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”/“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
From playground injustices to global warming, every cause needs someone who cares. And anyone who cares, has the power to change things. This is some superhero level stuff to lay on your kids.
“You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may!”
Salad. Getting your face wet. Baseball. Two ponytails instead of one. The movie your sister wants to watch. That really big slide at the playground that does actually make me kind of want to vomit when I look up at how high it is.
Sometimes I think there’s no literary character I identify with more than Sam, the green eggs pusher.
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
True. Unless we’re talking about vacation.