This day in 1904, Theodor Seuss Geisel, known to us all as Dr. Seuss, was born in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts. Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!
Working in a children’s bookstore, surrounded by friends and old classmates who are also children’s book aficionados, I sometimes forget that the rest of the world doesn’t quite have the same working knowledge of children’s books. What I have found, however, is that if someone only knows one creator of picture books, it’s usually Dr. Seuss. By now, almost 75 years after the publication of his first children’s book, entire generations have been touched and enchanted by Dr. Seuss’ nonsense rhymes and wildly imaginative characters. But where did he get all of his such wonderfully entertaining ideas? I was delighted when I stumbled across this old interview with him in an issue of The Horn Book Magazine from 1989. I think his answers capture his sense of humor and playfulness just right:
How do you get your ideas for books?
This is the most asked question of any successful author. Most authors will not disclose their source for fear that other less successful authors will chisel in on their territory. However, I am willing to take a chance. I get all my ideas in Switzerland near the Forka Pass. There is a little town called Gletch, and two thousand feet up above Gletch there is a smaller hamlet called Uber Gletch. I go there on the fourth of August every summer to get my cuckoo clock repaired. While the cuckoo is in the hospital, I wander around and talk to the people in the streets. They are very strange people, and I get my ideas from them.
Excerpt from the Horn Book Magazine, Vol. 65., pp.582-588 © 1989 Glen Edward Sadler.
Although he became a world-renowned bestselling children’s book author and illustrator, Dr. Seuss was not an instant success. Sitting in my History of Publishing class, I remember being shocked when my teacher, Anita Silvey, told us he had been rejected 27 times by 27 different publishers with his first book (And To Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street). A pure stroke of luck had a dejected Dr. Seuss walking home only to run into an old friend from Dartmouth College who had recently been made children’s book editor and agreed to publish Seuss’ book. In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, Anita has the full story today over at her wonderful blog, Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac.
In other shocking Dr. Seuss facts, I recently saw some unorthodox Dr. Seuss taxidermy at the local R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, MA. Very bizarre and very funny. Check it out!
If you’re in the area, why not celebrate this special day with a trip to Springfield’s Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Gardens.