Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Seuss Saturday for Kathy

Today is the birthday of my sister-in-law Kathy -- whose age shall go unmentioned!  Kathy is an occasional reader of this blog!  In the past I have often sent birthday greetings to family members and friends (including Kathy) with a listing of historical events that took place on their birthday.  I also would include a list of famous people who share their birthday.  One of the famous people my sister-in-law shares her birthday with is worth noting again today via this posting.  Let’s see how long it takes Kathy to notice!  

Recently I posted about Bruce Feiler’s new book examining some of the attributes happy families appear to have in common.  One of those attributes was having children that know about their family history. Genealogists' Addiction Vindicated.  I have not read Mr. Feiler’s book, so I do not know if, or how, he discusses shared activities as one secret to having a happy family; but I am convinced that the act of reading to children should be high on the list of any shared activities making for a happy family.  I know reading to our sons was a favorite activity for both my wife Molly and me – and my sons’ four grandparents and other relatives (including "birthday-girl" Kathy) spent countless hours reading to them.  The physical closeness, the shared exploration of the wonderful worlds created by words -- and the momentary quiet time it brought to an otherwise bustling household – made reading time a great experience for all involved.  Both sons are now devoted readers and our younger son is completing a master's degree and intends to teach English and literature.

Kathy shares her birthday today with the author of one of my favorite books to read aloud.  I cannot even begin to recall the number of times I read this book to my sons individually or together.  It was simply a very fun book to read for all of us!

Theodore Seuss Geisel
Theodore Seuss Geisel, better known as “Dr. Seuss,” was born on this day in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts (where one of my brothers was born).  “Ted” graduated from Springfield Central High School and later went to Dartmouth College (my paternal grandfather’s alma mater).  Geisel was a fraternity member at Dartmouth and he wrote for the college humor magazine, the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern.  He wrote and engaged in other extracurricular activities until he was caught imbibing a little gin with several friends in his room.  While this should shock few today, the big problem then was that it was during Prohibition and the act was not just a youthful indiscretion . . . it was illegal.  Geisel was not expelled from college by Dean Craven Laycock [in retrospect what a great name for the man to have issued the coming punishment -- "craven" meaning cowardly].  Instead, young Theodore Geisel was forced by the Dean to resign from all extracurricular activities – including his writing for the Jack-O-Lantern.  Geisel dutifully resigned and stayed in school, but he began to write covertly using a pen name that would later become world famous and help bind generations of parents to their children.  He signed his work with the name “Seuss.’  [Presumably Ted did not use his middle name as part of his signature or register with Dartmouth using his full name because surely the brilliant Dean Laycock would have recognized the thinly veiled disguise of the nom de plume “Seuss! OR, maybe the good Dean did see through the ruse and gave a wink and a nod to talent he was one of the first to fully recognize and appreciate.  Who knows?]

By the way, how did  Theodore Seuss Geisel pronounce his middle name -- the maiden name of his mother?  One of his fellow writers on the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern, Alexander Liang, wrote a limerick that instructs us how the family pronounced it to rhyme with "voice."

          You're wrong as the deuce
          And you shouldn't rejoice
          If you're calling him Seuss
          He pronounces it Soice  (or Zoice)

Theodore (Dr. Seuss) Geisel died in La Jolla, California, of throat cancer on September 24, 1991.  By the time of his death he was one of the greatest authors of children’s literature in the world.  He wrote over 60 books (most as Dr. Seuss) and sold more than 600 milion.  His books were translated into more than 20 languages.  In 2000 Publishers Weekly listed the best selling children’s books of all time and of the Top 100, sixteen (16) were written by Theodore Geisel.  My favorite to read was #4.  The Cat in the Hat was #9 and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish was #13.

So, for all the intimate family times that Ted Geisel and Dr. Seuss provided for us as children, parents, and grandparents, raise a glass today in birthday celebration to the good Dr. (and Kathy)!

Oh . . . I almost forgot.  What was my favorite book to read to my sons?  The one I most look forward to reading aloud to any future grandchildren?   It was this one of course (followed closely by One Fish Two Fish . . . )!

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For more information on Theodore Seuss Geisel . . .

The photograph of Theodore Geisel is a work for hire created prior to 1968 by a staff photographer at New York World-Telegram & Sun. It is part of a collection donated to the Library of Congress. According to the deed of gift, New York World-Telegram & Sun dedicated to the public all rights it held for the photographs in this collection upon its donation to the Library. Thus, there are no known restrictions on the usage of this photograph.   

The cover image of "Green Eggs and Ham" directly and clearly illustrates the main subject of this post and does not effect adversely the copyright owner (if any) or any copyright owner's ability to sell the book -- in fact it might assist in some small way with future sales.  The image is included only for illustration purposes and is believed to be a "fair use" under U.S. copyright law.
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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1 comment:

  1. Hope your sister loved this post!! I'd remembered the limerick but couldn't find it a few years ago when I searched it, for some reason. Dr. S was my favourite author to read to and with my 4 kids. In fact, my ex-husband had never read the books, so I read them to him too - the first one was my absolutely most favourite one, "Horton Hears A Who". Thanks for the neat memories.