Theodor Seuss Geisel's works include several of the most popular children's books of all time, selling over 600 million copies and being translated into more than 20 languages by the time of his death (via). He's perhaps one of the most recognized authors of all time. Here are a few, possible, unknowns of Mr. Theodor Geisel:
1. The pen name “Dr. Seuss” began as a way to escape punishment in college.
In 1925, in the midst of the Prohibition Era, Seuss and his friends were caught drinking gin in his Dartmouth dormitory dorm, Nel said. As punishment, Seuss was stripped of his editorship at the college’s humor magazine, Jack-O-Lantern. However, he continued to publish work under a variety of pseudonyms, including “T. Seuss.” Several other varying monikers, such as “Dr. Theophrastus Seuss,” appeared over the years, which he eventually shortened to “Dr. Seuss” as his go-to professional pen name.
In 1961, with his book “Ten Apples Up on Top!,” Seuss began collaborating with illustrators for books he wrote. For these, he used the pseudonym “Theo. LeSieg,” which is “Geisel” spelled backward. He also published one book, 1975’s “Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo!!”, under the pen name “Rosetta Stone.” And although there’s no known evidence to support the claim, Nel said that Seuss meant to save his real name for the Great American Novel that he would one day write.
Instead, Seuss debuted the Cat and the Grinch the same year in 1957, two of his most famous characters. The Cat and the Grinch were also facets of the man, Nel said. The rule-breaking, mischievous Cat spoke to the author’s sense of play, while the Grinch represented the cantankerous part of Seuss’ personality.
He had a vanity license plate that read, “GRINCH,” Nel said (via).
2. He joined the war effort.
Beginning in 1941, Seuss produced political cartoons for the left-wing newspaper PM in New York. In those pages, he criticized the U.S. policy of isolationism, urging the country to enter World War II. He also lambasted anti-Semitism and racism, although his depictions of Japanese people with exaggerated racial features proved problematic (via).
By 1942, Seuss was keen on joining the navy, but was instead asked to make war propaganda films with Oscar-winning director Frank Capra. Joined by P.D. Eastman of “Go, Dog. Go!” fame, Mel Blanc and Chuck Jones among others, Seuss co-created Private Snafu (“Situation Normal, All Fouled Up”), a cartoon dolt in a military uniform meant to teach new recruits how to be a good soldier.
The black-and-white cartoon series was also off-color — and a hit with soldiers.
“It’s so cold, it would freeze the nuts off a jeep,” one cartoon begins.
3. His all-time best-selling book was created on a bet.
Dr. Seuss’ editor Bennett Cerf bet him he couldn’t write a book using 50 or fewer words. The result is 1960’s “Green Eggs and Ham.” Although the Cat and the Grinch are among Seuss’ most iconic characters, the story of Sam-I-Am trying to convince an unknown character to eat green eggs and ham has sold more than eight million copies since publication, according to a 2011 Publishers Weekly list.
Can you craft a best-seller with these 50 words?
a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you
4. He battled Shakespeare
One of my favorite stories is Sneetches. Because it's timeless.
by Theodor Geisel (1961)
Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches Had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches Had none upon thars.
Those stars weren't so big. They were really so small
You might think such a thing wouldn't matter at all.
But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches Would brag, "We're the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches." With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they'd snort “We'll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!"
And whenever they met some, when they were out walking, They'd hike right on past them without even talking.
When the Star-Belly children went out to play ball, Could a Plain-Belly get in the game...? Not at all. You could only play if your bellies had stars
And the Plain-Belly children had none upon thars.
When the Star-Belly Sneetches had frankfurter roasts Or picnics or parties or marshmallow toasts,
They never invited the Plain-Belly Sneetches.
They left them out cold, in the dark of the beaches. They kept them away. Never let them come near. And that's how they treated them year after year.
Then ONE day, it seems...while the Plain-Belly Sneetches Were moping and doping alone on the beaches,
Just sitting there wishing their bellies had stars...
A stranger zipped up in the strangest of cars!
"My friends," he announced in a voice clear and keen,
"My name is Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
And I've heard of your troubles. I've heard you're unhappy. But I can fix that. I'm the Fix-it-Up Chappie.
I've come here to help you. I have what you need. And my prices are low. And I work at great speed. And my work is one hundred per cent guaranteed!"
Then, quickly, Sylvester McMonkey McBean
Put together a very peculiar machine.
And he said, "You want stars like a Star-Belly Sneetch...? My friends, you can have them for three dollars each!”
“Just pay me your money and hop right aboard!"
So they clambered inside. Then the big machine roared
And it clonked. And it bonked. And it jerked. And it berked And it bopped them about. But the thing really worked! When the Plain-Belly Sneetches popped out, they had stars! They actually did. They had stars upon thars!
Then they yelled at the ones who had stars from the start, "We're exactly like you! You can't tell us apart.
We're all just the same, now, you snooty old smarties! And now we can go to your frankfurter parties."
"Good grief!" groaned the ones who had stars at the first. "We're still the best Sneetches and they are the worst. But, now, how in the world will we know," they all frowned, "If which kind is what, or the other way round?"
Then up came McBean with a very sly wink
And he said, "Things are not quite as bad as you think. So you don't know who's who. That’s perfectly true. But come with me, friends. Do you know what I'll do? I'll make you, again, the best Sneetches on beaches And all it will cost you is ten dollars eaches.”
Belly stars are no longer in style," said McBean.
"What you need is a trip through my Star-Off machine.
This wondrous contraption will take off your stars
So you won't look like Sneetches who have them on thars." And that handy machine
Working very precisely
Removed all the stars from their tummies quite nicely.
Then, with snoots in the air, they paraded about
And they opened their beaks and they let out a shout, "We know who is who! Now there isn't a doubt.
The best kind of Sneetches are Sneetches without!"
Then, of course, those with stars all got frightfully mad. To be wearing a star now was frightfully bad.
Then, of course, old Sylvester McMonkey McBean Invited them into his Star-Off Machine.
Then, of course from then on, as you probably guess, Things really got into a horrible mess.
All the rest of that day, on those wild screaming beaches, The Fix-it-Up Chappie kept fixing up Sneetches.
Off again! On again!
In again! Out again!
Through the machines they raced round and about again, Changing their stars every minute or two.
They kept paying money. They kept running through
Until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew
Whether this one was that one...or that one was this one Or which one was what one...or what one was who.
Then, when every last cent
Of their money was spent,
The Fix-it-Up Chappie packed up And he went.
And he laughed as he drove
In his car up the beach,
"They never will learn.
No. You can't teach a Sneetch!"
But McBean was quite wrong. I'm quite happy to say The Sneetches got really quite smart on that day, The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches. That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars
And whether they had one, or not, upon thars. The end.
The Butter Battle Books is another of my favorites, and equally timely.