Oh, the Places You’ll Go! was published just a year before Dr. Seuss’ death and captures his indomitable sense of optimism and hope. If Seuss had ever meant to write an autobiography, this book would be it.
He was born Theodor Seuss Geisel. The name Dr. Seuss (actually pronounced “zoice”) began both as a cover story he concocted after getting caught drinking gin during Prohibition and as a joke directed at his father who always wanted him to get a Phd.
Ted to his family and friends, Seuss wrote his first children’s book in 1937: A Story No One Can Beat, which he later renamed And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.
Seuss attributed his now-famous style of lighthearted rhyming to his mother who would soothe him to sleep when he was young by “chanting” rhymes she remembered from her own childhood.
But success did not come easily to Dr. Seuss. The exact number is unknown, but somewhere between twenty and forty publishing companies rejected his first book. In fact, according to Seuss himself, he became so discouraged that one day he was walking home to burn the manuscript when he randomly ran across an old college friend who had connections to the publishing industry and helped him get the book published.
After this first long-awaited success, Seuss continued to work tirelessly throughout his writing career, locking himself in the studio of his old observation tower and writing at least eight hours a day—sometimes literally wearing a thinking cap. It wasn’t unusual for him to throw away 95 percent of his work and spend up to a year on one book.
Seuss’ hard work paid off: He earned two Academy Awards, two Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and the Pulitzer Prize (among many others). To this date, his books have still sold more than J. K. Rowling’s and Stephenie Meyer’s.
But it wasn’t his fame and fortune that Seuss was most proud of. His greatest achievement, he said, was replacing the boring “Dick and Jane” books with fun, silly, and imaginative books. His greatest hope was to instill a love of reading in children.
Today, one in four children receive Dr. Seuss as their first book, and Seuss’ birthday (March 2) has been named National Read Across America Day.
Dr. Seuss became Dr. Seuss because he didn’t give up.
Who will you become if you don’t give up?