Celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday March 2 at the library

By Lisa Hartzell | Feb 17, 2014
Photo by: Mikell Clark-Webb Dalton is dressed as the Cat in the Hat.

Every year on March 2, people across the country celebrate the birthday of one of the most beloved children’s authors of our time, Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. He was born March 2, 1904. He died when he was 87. Now, about to celebrate his 110th birthday, let’s look at the man who changed children’s literature forever.

He wasn’t really a doctor, although he had thought of pursuing a Ph.D. in literature. His real passion was drawing. He loved making cartoons and tried to make a living as a cartoonist. By chance he ended up in advertising and spent 30 years of his working life writing ads. One of his best-known ads was for a bug spray. The catch phrase was “Quick, Henry. The Flit!”

Although he had written and published 12 previous children’s books, he is best known for “The Cat in the Hat” which was published in 1957. This book was written William   Spaulding, the director of Houghton Mifflin’s education division, challenged him to write a book “first graders can’t put down.” He gave Geisel a list of words, and asked him to write a story using 225 of them. From this challenge came “The Cat in the Hat,” which changed reading for children. The book has 236 words that first graders should know.

In 1960, publisher Bennett Cerf bet Geisel he couldn’t write a book using 50 or less words. The result of that book became his best-selling title “Green Eggs and Ham,” which is probably his most popular book. Geisel ended up writing over 40 books for children, nearly all of them in his familiar rhymes. He also invented many new words

Dr. Seuss never had children of his own. He often said that he wrote, not to teach kids to read, but to teach kids to think. Some of his books, like “The Lorax,” “Horton Hears a Who” and “The Butter Battle Book,” were in response to world events, like war or harming the environment.

Dr. Seuss died Sept. 24, 1991 after a battle with cancer. He left behind a nation who grew up loving to read. He inspired a whole new generation of authors. My first memories of reading were of “Green Eggs and Ham.” I think I had memorized the entire book when I was 3-years old. Some of the first books my children learned to read were Dr. Seuss titles.

Being a librarian, I really appreciate what Dr. Seuss did for the world of children’s literature. He gave us books that made us laugh, and books that sparked out imagination. He gave us new words that were fun to say and he made us want to read aloud.

The Haywood County Public Library is planning a party to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday. The party will be held Saturday, March 1 at the main library in Waynesville. The festivities will start at 11 a.m. with special guest Hugh Burford. There will be birthday cake, games, crafts and, of course, a reading some of our favorite Dr. Seuss books. If time permits, we may show a short movie. Everyone is invited to come and celebrate.

Lisa Hartzell is a youth services librarian for the Haywood County Public Library.