Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss and Our Top Ten Favorite Seuss Books
Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! On March 2, everyone's favorite master of rhyme would have been 108 years old. Dr. Seuss passed away in 1991, but his legacy will forever live on. In fact, right now his legacy is as strong as ever with the March 2 release of The Lorax on the big screen.
Not too many people know that Dr. Seuss, a.k.a. Theodor Geisel, has had a checkered past. Surprisingly for someone known to entertain children, Seuss has had his hand in some very grown-up activities. He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1904 and found his way to the prestigious Dartmouth College. For a while he was editor of the university's humor paper, but was forced to resign because he and his pals threw an alcohol-fueled rager. He went off to Oxford, on his father's wishes, but dropped out soon after.
He pursued a career in advertising, most notably at the New Jersey company Standard Oil, where he would design the company's ad campaigns for 15 years. The work he did there would set the stage for the rest of his career.
Theodor Geisel's print ad for Standard Oil
Once WWII hit, Seuss's concentration changed and he began making politically charged cartoons, which were published in PM Magazine. Seuss had strong feelings about the war and the government, and if you read between the lines of some of his children's books, you can find many allusions. It has been said that his book Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now was a nudge at Richard M. Nixon.
A Theodor Geisel political cartoon
During the Second World War, Seuss joined the war effort and wrote and illustrated war "training" films, featuring the animated character Private Snafu. He joined up with famed film director Frank Capra (It's a Wonderful Life) and created non-animated films that are more or less propaganda pieces. He won an Academy Award for the short documentary Design for Death, which, by today's standards, is completely racist.
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In 1937, he published his first children's book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, which was apparently rejected 27 times. Seuss went on to publish 46 books over his lifetime, many of which have become animated movies, and will have influenced generations of readers and illustrators for decades to come.
There are so many amazing Dr. Seuss books; how can you attempt to rank them in any sort of numerical order? Oh, we'll try! Our top ten favorite Dr. Seuss books.
10. Oh, the Places You'll Go!
Oh, the Places You'll Go! is a lovely book about the many adventures in life. It tells us that sometimes you will find yourself waiting for something to happen, but in the end it's all about "the climb" (Cyrus, Miley). This book has a wonderful message, people just need to stop buying it for recent high school grads.
9. Hop on Pop
There is not much substance to this one, it's a book created for young readers and is filled with simple rhymes. As a kid, I always found it hilarious that these children were jumping all over their dad, and the only thing he could tell them to do was "Stop," because it rhymed. My dad would have never put up with that noise.
8. Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?
Can Mr. Brown communicate with cows?
Who is this Mr. Brown and why is he walking around town making all of these bizarre animal noises? "Mr. Brown can sound like a cork." Maybe Mr. Brown needs to calm down on the bubbly. 7. The Butter Battle Up Book
All of this...over toast?
The Butter Battle Up Book is one of Seuss's more obscure works. The Zooks and the Yooks live on opposite sides of a large wall, akin to the Berlin Wall. One side prefers eating their toast butter side up, one, butter side down. This is cause for war! The book is known to be an allegory for the arms race and the feelings Seuss had on the Cold War. In the end, neither side wins. The generals of the Zooks and Yooks have a stand-off, bomb in each hand, letting the reader decide the fate of the two races. 6. Green Eggs and Ham
Why would a goat change his mind?
Sam, I Am, the green-egg pusher, comes off as pretty annoying in this book. Can't the guy take a hint? No one likes green eggs and ham; it sounds disgusting. Good thing he doesn't give up, because sometimes you need try things you don't think you will like, such as sushi, which America now knows is delicious. 5. Horton Hears a Who!
Poor Horton, no one in the jungle believes him when he runs around ranting and raving that the little speck of dust he's been carrying around may contain an entire world of beings. "But a person's a person, no matter how small," and Horton never gives up on the little universe of Whos and saves them from extinction. Good on you, man, good on you.
4. The Sneetches
Another wonderful fable about a race of creatures who cannot seem to get along, this time based on their exterior middles. The Star-Bellied Sneetches are a group of stuck-up Sneetches, if only for the fact that they have small green stars on their stomachs. When the Plain-Bellied Sneetches get access to a star-belly marking machine, the natural order of the world goes to hell.
On a personal side note, it has been rumored that I may have fallen victim, during an evening of college antics, to being used as "practice" for a friend's makeshift tattoo gun, being convinced by a girlfriend to get "stars on our bellies, like the Sneetches." This cannot be proven.
3. The Lorax
Who as a child would not want this strangely fantastic cat to show up at their home, with his crazy, blue-haired Things, make a total mess and then magically clean up? No kid in their right mind would refuse candy from the Cat in the Hat. And this book proved what we've always suspected all along: Fish are prudes.
1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Maybe I am a sucker for all things red and green, but the tale of the annoyed, miserly Grinch and his lovable dog Max ruining and then sufficiently saving Christmas is one of the best pieces of literature ever created. Why does the Grinch hate Christmas so? Why doesn't he just hang out with the Whos and trim trees and play their games like "zoozit and kazay?" Why are you so cold, Mr. Grinch? Alas, we all still love you and your undeniable influence over the holiday season, and maybe, just maybe, you've given us the strength of ten Grinches plus two, which is 12, if you don't know math.
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