I’ve often commented in reviewing books from the Childhood of Famous Americans series that the biography focuses mainly on the life of the child. In most cases this is true, but Dr. Seuss goes far beyond Seuss’s childhood. In fact, it spends as much time addressing Seuss’s adult life as it does his juvenile one!
I’ve never read much Seuss – my mother didn’t really like his zany style, and for some reason I’ve never picked any of his books up. But I enjoyed reading about how some of his characters and story ideas came into fruition. Also of interest were the wrangling relationships he (like most authors) had to maintain with his publishers and some of the literary challenges he set himself against. (He wrote The Cat in the Hat after being challenged to write a book for first graders that used the 225 first words that beginning readers learn. Green Eggs and Ham used a mere fifty!)
The historic perspective in Dr. Seuss was interesting as well. As a brewery-running German family, the Geisels (Seuss’s real name was Ted Geisel) experienced outright hostility during the Great War and the prohibition movement of the early 20th century.
Seuss’s wife, Helen, suffered from grave illnesses for much of her life and, knowing that her disease was terminal, she eventually decided to take her own life. Seuss, of course, was devastated, but before a year had passed he married again, this time to a woman who had just divorced her husband.
Seuss began creating fantastical creatures in his mind and on paper from his earliest days. He also pretended to be these creatures and dressed up as them for his birthday and Halloween.
When discussing novel ideas with his publisher, Seuss offered to write “an adult book with lots of naked ladies”.[pg. 117]
Conclusion. Children who have enjoyed Dr. Seuss’s books will love learning about his life.
Review © 2014 Laura Verret