He’s been gone for nearly 27 years, but Dr. Seuss left behind a legacy that will last for generations.
I remember my parents reading his books to me when I was a toddler, then when I was able to read myself, I wasted no time in getting through favorites like Cat In The Hat and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.
During the holidays, the entire family watched How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and like every other grad, my parents gave a copy of Oh The Places You’ll Go when I finished high school.
In many ways, Dr. Seuss was a part of my childhood, but as a kid, there were still a lot of things I did not know about the man behind the books.
The multi-talented author was a fascinating man and it certainly showed in his work, but it wasn’t until I became an adult that I truly appreciated this. If you find yourself in the same boat, then these ten facts will definitely change that.
1. He was not a doctor
Well, this one is probably obvious to you by now, but as a kid, I just assumed that in addition to writing books, Dr. Seuss actually fixed people. He added the prefix to his name to add credibility to his work and also because his father wanted him to be a doctor. He didn’t even receive a doctorate until 1956 when his alma mater, Dartmouth, presented him with an honorary one.
2. His name is pronounced differently
Can you imagine having your name pronounced wrong by so many people all the time? Turns out, we’ve been saying Dr. Suess’s name wrong all along. The German surname is actually pronounced “Soice” or “Zoice.”
One of his collaborators, Alexander Laing, even wrote a short poem about it:
You’re wrong as the deuce/
And you shouldn’t rejoice/
If you’re calling him Seuss./
He pronounces it Soice(or Zoice)
It can certainly get annoying to hear your name wrong all the time, but Dr. Seuss was a really good sport about it. In fact, he encouraged people to stick with the popular anglicized pronunciation because it “evoked a figure advantageous for an author of children’s books to be associated with Mother Goose”
3. He was rejected multiple times
The children’s author’s road to success was paved with a lot of rejection. 27 to be exact. That’s how many times Dr. Seuss was turned down before he was finally given the opportunity to publish his first book, And To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street, in 1937. The title was inspired by the street his grandmother lived on.
4. The Cat In The Hat was a special assignment
Even successful authors have to sometimes take on assignments given to them by someone else. Dr. Seuss was asked by Houghton Mills & Random House, a publishing house, to write a children’s book using 220 vocabulary words because children at the time were showing low reading levels. This gave way to one of his most popular books, The Cat In The Hat.
5. His most popular book was meant for babies in utero
Oh The Places You’ll Go has become the book to gift graduates with, but funny enough, it was actually written for parents to read aloud to their unborn babies. Clearly, the book went on to serve other purposes, and became his best-selling work.
Wait till you find out how he truly feels about children…
6. There’s an interesting story behind Green Eggs and Ham
Dr. Seuss lived an amusing life, and this translated into many of his works. In fact, he wrote the silly story Green Eggs and Ham as a dare after his publisher made a bet that he wouldn’t be able to write a book using only 50 different words.
7. He did not like kids
Although he never admitted to this publicly, it was no secret that Dr. Seuss wasn’t a fan of kids. He never bothered to have any of his own. His wife Audrey once revealed that Seuss did not know how to act around children. He would constantly worry about “What might they do next? What might they ask next?” she said. “He couldn’t just sit down on the floor and play with them.”
Considering he is one of the most successful and celebrated children’s authors of all time, it’s ironic that he did enjoy the company of kids.
8. His books tackled some serious themes
As a kid you definitely missed it, but if you were to reread some of Dr. Seuss’s work, you may realize that it isn’t just about teaching kids a lesson or helping them improve their vocabulary. Seuss actually based the story of Yertle the Turtle on Hitler.
Horton Hears a Who is about the way America treated Japan, and The Butter Battle Book was about the Cold War. It was only on the shelves for six months before it was pulled due to the controversy it stirred.
9. He invented a popular word
The word “nerd,” which Oxford dictionary defines as “A foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious” or “A single-minded expert in a particular technical field,” first appeared in the 1950s. While many don’t really know the origin of the word, it is believed that it was initially coined by none other than Dr. Suess in his book If I Ran The Zoo.
10. He was also a painter
Dr. Suess was a man of many talents. In addition to his written work, cartoons, and advertisements, he also created some paintings. Next time you’re in a museum, keep an eye out for his surrealist and doddles-inspired art, it could be hanging beside a Picasso.