Theodor Geisel, best known to fans as Dr. Seuss, would have been 109 years old on March 2. He is beloved for his intricate rhymes and curious, inimitable style. But Dr. Seuss was about more than a curious turn of phrase and the creator of fantastical creatures. He was a serious writer and artist with a social agenda.
Personally, I learned about prejudice from his book The Star-Belly Sneetches:
Now, the Star-Bell Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.
Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small.
You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.
But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches
Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.”
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort
“We’ll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!”
And, whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
They’d hike right on past them without even talking.
When the Star-Belly children went out to play ball,
Could a Plain Belly get in the game? Not at all.
You only could play if your bellies had stars
And the Plain-Belly children had none upon thars.
I learned about conservation from The Lorax:
At the far end of town
where the Grickle-grass grows
and the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows
and no birds ever sing excepting old crows…
is the Street of the Lifted Lorax.
And deep in the Grickle-grass, some people say,
if you look deep enough you can still see, today,
where the Lorax once stood
just as long as it could
before somebody lifted the Lorax away.
What was the Lorax?
Any why was it there?
And why was it lifted and taken somewhere
from the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows?
The old Once-ler still lives here.
Ask him. He knows.
Now that I am an adult and a writer myself, I marvel at Geisel’s technical expertise and his ability to make the seemingly simple deeply meaningful. Here is his explanation of what it means to “write simply.”
Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss.