Did you know that his publisher bet Ted that he couldn’t write a book using only 50 words? The result was Green Eggs and Ham.
Did you know a newspaper published a parody of ‘Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!’ called “Richard M. Nixon, Will You Please Go Now!”? And the president resigned 9 days later.
Did you know that he wrote The Butter Battle Book in response to the nuclear arms race?
Did you know that he was so upset with pollution that he wrote The Lorax?
Did you know his first story ‘And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” was rejected by 27 publishers? And Ted was embarrassed that it was only a children’s book.
Ted was a strange little kid. He never fit in. His grandparents were German immigrants and his parents had a brewery when being German and brewing beer was a massive no-no in his little Missouri town. As the world was headed into WWII, he was a punching bag on the school playground because of his family’s background.
But he continued. He drew. He doodled. He found ways to create even when teachers looked down their noses at the way he added wings to his horses or long noses to birds. His art broke the rules. Yet he still kept on.
He always intended to write “great works” so he decided to save Ted Geisel for those. Books he wrote but didn’t illustrate he used Theo LeSeig. I love how his great works ended up being children’s books and that he was best known as Seuss (his middle name and his mother’s maiden name). He said his parents always wanted him to be a doctor so he chose Dr. Seuss for his pseudonym.
Can you imagine where this world would be without the incredible books of Dr. Seuss??
He crammed powerful truth in silly meter, wild imagination in funny animals and an incredible life in colorful books.
But he began the same way we all do: absorbing his surroundings and their beliefs until another circumstance forces him to reconsider. His first book (of which I am unable to provide a hyperlink due to cancel culture) is about a young boy (based on Ted himself) whose imagination and tall tales kept getting him in trouble as he walked down Mulberry Street.
As we look back on that era of our nation, we can see from the illustrations of racial stereotypes how he simply wrote from his understanding of the world then – as so many others wrote and lived from their faulty understanding of the world.
It got me thinking about Dumbo and the other older Disney movies that have awful racial portrayals and I found I have deep respect for the way Disney + handled it. They’ve posted an unskippable disclaimer prior to each movie that says…
These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now,” the updated disclaimer reads. “Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together. Disney is committed to creating stories with inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe. To learn more about how stories have impacted society, please visit www.disney.com/StoriesMatter.”USA Today
Ted Geisel was a man born in 1904 and died in 1991. He lived through two World Wars and the death of his dearest encourager among many other events. He’s simply a man who loved to doodle and strike up a rhyme to go with his funny creatures.
If I could sit across from him and ask him about the way his drawings stereotyped other cultures, I believe he would be saddened knowing he’d inadvertently hurt others – yet I also think he’d be equally saddened to realize this is how most people will remember him.
Rather than the boy with the wild imagination who became Dr. Seuss.