Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Whenever I try to write rhyming poetry, a strange things happens — it sounds very Seussian.  I didn’t plan it that way, but the similarity is unmistakable.  But I shouldn’t be surprised, because Dr. Seuss has been influencing kids for eighty years now.

March 2 was the good doctor’s birthday.  In tribute, here is his entry from that day from The Writers’ Almanac

Dr. Seuss (books by this author), born Theodor Geisel, in Springfield, Massachusetts (1904). He published his first book for children, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, in 1937. He went on to publish a series of fairly successful books for older children, and then, in 1955, an educational specialist asked him if he would write a book to help children learn how to read. Seuss was given a list of 300 words that most first-graders know, and he had to write the book using only those words. Seuss wasn’t sure he could do it, but as he looked over the list, two words jumped out at him: “cat” and “hat.”

Seuss spent the next nine months writing what would become The Cat in the Hat (1957). That book is 1,702 words long, but it uses only 220 different words. Parents and teachers immediately began using it to teach children to read, and within the first year of its publication it was selling 12,000 copies a month. A few years later, Seuss’s publisher bet him $50 that he could not write a book using only 50 different words. Seuss won the bet with his book Green Eggs and Ham (1960), which uses exactly 50 different words, and only one of those words has more than one syllable: the word “anywhere.”

The Writers’ Almanac with Garrison Keillor comes from American Public Media and is supported by The Poetry Foundation.  It can be found at  http://writersalmanac.org/.

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