Five fun facts about Dr Seuss – or Theodor Seuss Geisel, to give him his full name
1. His first book was rejected by over 20 publishers. Dr Seuss got the idea for his first work, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, from listening to the rhythmic sound of a ship’s engine. The book was reportedly rejected by anything between 20 and 43 publishers (the author’s own account of the number varied) before it was accepted for publication by Vanguard Press in 1937. His books have gone on to sell over half a billion copies worldwide, making him one of the biggest-selling children’s authors in the world.
2. Dr Seuss included the word ‘contraceptive’ in a draft of his children’s book Hop on Pop to make sure his publisher was paying attention. The original draft of the book contains these lines: ‘When I read I am smart / I always cut whole words apart. / Con Stan Tin O Ple, Tim Buk Too / Con Tra Cep Tive, Kan Ga Roo.’ We’re pleased to report that the publisher, Bennett Cerf, was paying attention, and this line was removed. (More great word facts here.)
3. When Dr. Seuss suffered from writer’s block, he would go to a secret closet filled with hats and wear them till the words came. He owned hundreds of hats and would encourage his guests at dinner parties to wear one. His second book, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, appears to have been autobiographical.
4. ‘Dr Seuss’ is one of the most mispronounced of all writers’ names. It actually rhymes with ‘voice’, so ‘Zoyce’ rather than ‘Zeus’. As well as using the name Dr Seuss, Theodor Seuss Geisel also wrote under the pen names Theo LeSieg and Rosetta Stone.
5. His bestselling book Green Eggs and Ham was banned in Maoist China because it portrayed ‘early Marxism’. Perhaps one of the more surprising banned books, Green Eggs and Ham was outlawed in China until Seuss’s death in 1991. He wrote the book as the result of a bet – he was challenged to write a book using just 50 words. All but one of the words in the book are monosyllabic: ‘anywhere’ is the only word in Green Eggs and Ham that has more than one syllable.
Image: Ted Geisel (Dr Seuss) photographed by Al Ravenna, 1957; Wikimedia Commons; public domain.