Dr. Seuss' infectious rhymes, his blue-tufted, strong-willed creatures, and his knack for pithy, roundabout plots have been entertaining children and adults for decades. And as Donald Pease shows in this marvelous biography, the seemingly haphazard trajectory of Theodor Geisel's life bears a close resemblance to the zigzag plot lines of his children's books. Here is an engaging look at a man who indeed lived a zigzag life, by turns a cartoonist, ad agency artist (for Flit bug killer), author, caricaturist, documentary-film writer and producer, political cartoonist, and editor. Pease follows Geisel's life from his childhood in Massachusetts, to his sacking from the editorship of Dartmouth's humor magazine, to the publication of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street-after 17 rejections-which finally launched him on the career for which he is best known. It was a career marked by whimsy. Geisel began work on Green Eggs and Ham, for instance, only after Bennett Cerf, his editor at Random House, wagered that he could not write a children's book that used no more than fifty different words.
Geisel won, and the result was a series of works over the next ten years-How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Yertle the Turtle, The Sneetches and Other Stories, Hop on Pop-that changed the way children everywhere learned to read. Given unprecedented access to Dartmouth's extensive Geisel holdings, Pease captures this life in full as he offers fresh insights into the sources of Geisel's creativity, from his surreal images to his anti-authoritarian stance and slapstick humor. Readers are treated to many lesser-known illustrations, such as his censored creations during college, insecticide ads, and wartime political cartoons-all of which offer a glimpse of his early artistic style and the visual origins of the more famous creatures that later populated his children's books.
Donald E. Pease is Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and African-American Literature at Dartmouth, the Avalon Foundation Chair of the Humanities, the Founding Director of the Futures of American Studies Institute at Dartmouth, and the Chair of the Dartmouth Liberal Studies Program. Awarded the Ted and Helen Geisel Chair in the Humanities at Dartmouth College in 1990, Pease has since become an authority on Geisel's work, selected to give
a keynote address at the ceremony celebrating the opening of the Geisel Library at the University of California at San Diego.