Official State Children's Author & Illustrator of Massachusetts
The beloved Dr. Seuss (1904-1991) filled his pages with tongue-twisters, inventive word play, and imaginative characters like Grinches, bunches of Hunches, and a fox in socks. Dr. Seuss is credited as the originator of the word nerd, first used in his 1950 book, "If I Ran the Zoo."
Dr. Seuss's works provided the source for eleven children's television specials, a Broadway musical, and a feature-length motion picture. Honors to Theodore Geisel include two Academy awards, two Emmy awards, a Peabody award, and the Pulitzer Prize.
Theodore Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield Massachusetts in 1904. After graduating from Dartmouth in 1925, he attended Oxford University in England, but found academic studies boring and in 1927 returned to the United States to pursue a career as a cartoonist.
Some of his work was published by the widely read Saturday Evening Post magazine. Viking Press was impressed with Ted's cartoons and contracted him to illustrate a collection of children's sayings. While the book was not a huge success, Ted's illustrations were, marking his 'big break' into children's books. However, 28 publishers rejected his first book ("And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street") before it was finally accepted and published.
In 1954 Life magazine ran an article on children having difficulty learning to read, attributing this in part to their opinion that children's books were boring. The article inspired Ted's publisher to ask him to write a children's book using only 250 words (his idea of how many words a first-grader could absorb at once). The result was Dr. Seuss's "Cat In The Hat" which used only 223 vocabulary words (and much repetition). The book was an instant success. In 1960 Dr. Seuss was again challenged to write a book using only 50 words, resulting in another instant success: "Green Eggs And Ham."
Dr. Seuss credits his mother with both his ability and the desire to create his famous rhymes (Henrietta Seuss Geisel soothed her children to sleep by "chanting" rhymes remembered from her youth). Dr. Seuss wrote and illustrated 46 children's books before his death in 1991. His books have been translated into more than 15 languages and over 200 million copies are cherished by children (and adults) all over the world.
Several other individuals are recognized as official symbols of Massachusetts: Ben Franklin (state inventor), Norman Rockwell (state artist), Deborah Samson Gannett (state heroine), Johnny Appleseed (state folk hero), and Taj Mahal (state Blues artist).CONTRIBUTORS: content for this article was submitted by June R. McKenzie.