Nonfiction is the new black
Dr. Seuss’s real name was Theodor Geisel. Born in 1904 in Springfield, Massachusetts, he became a cartoonist after graduating from Dartmouth College. For years, most of his work involved illustrations for advertisements. Returning on an ocean liner from a European trip in 1936, Geisel was fascinated by the continual throbbing of the ship’s engines. That throbbing gave him the rhythm he needed for his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Marco’s father asks him what he saw one day. Marco only saw a horse and wagon. But he wants to impress his father, so he spins an elaborate story.
It was hardly an instant success. Twenty-seven publishers turned it down. In fact, Geisel was ready to give up.
A chance encounter changed everything. Walking home one day, “He bumped into a friend…who had just become an editor at a publishing house,” explains Guy McLain, director of the Springfield Museum. The publishing house was Vanguard Press, and it accepted the book. Geisel used the pen name of Dr. Seuss, his middle name.
The rest is history. As Dr. Seuss, he wrote more than 40 books, including Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Horton Hears a Who. He’s probably the best-known children’s writer ever, with several books made into popular films. His birthdate of March 2 is the annual National Read Across America Day.
If you’re ever in Springfield, check out the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. His stepdaughter Lark Grey Dimond-Cates created four bronze sculpture groupings that include his most memorable creatures.
And all of this was the result of a long-ago decision that Dr. Seuss probably made without even thinking about. “If I had been going down the other side of Madison Avenue, I’d be in the dry-cleaning business today,” he said.
Jules Verne's account of someone going around the world in 80 days was a far-fetched idea in 1873 when his book was published. But Nelly Bly, an enterprising reporter, looked at it as a challenge. Tomorrow Nancy Costaldo will tell you what she did.