Now We Can Read, Sam-I-Am!

March 2 marked the birthday of Theodor Geisel (1904-1991), American author, illustrator, political cartoonist, and generally weird guy better known by his middle name and a self-applied honorific, “Dr. Seuss”[1] While his early career focused on illustration, advertising, and political cartoons,[2] he is most famous for his children’s books, beginning with And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937).[3]

Geisel took a break from writing children’s books (several of which were in prose, rather than poetry) during World War II. He began by publishing political cartoons supporting the war effort. He was eventually commissioned as a captain in the US Army and put in charge of the Animation Department of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces where he produced propaganda and training films, including a popular series featuring Private Snafu. This led to Geisel writing the first of two Academy Award-winning films, Design for Death (1947)[4], a Best Documentary Feature winner based on Geisel’s earlier short training film Our Job in Japan(1945).

After the war, Geisel returned to anapestic tetrameter[5] and children’s books, eventually writing over 45 children’s books in rhyme and prose starting with Mulberry Street and finishing with My Many Colored Days (1996), written in 1973 but not published until after his death.[6]

In 1954, Life published an article on childhood illiteracy that inspired William Spaulding at Houghton Mifflin to encourage literacy by creating books that would be fun for young children to read on their own. Spaulding came up with a list of 348 words important for first-graders to recognize and challenged Geisel to write an entire book using only 250 of them. This resulted in the first of Geisel’s Beginner Books series, The Cat in the Hat (1957), which uses only 236 unique words. Geisel took this one step further with Green Eggs and Ham (1960), which uses only 50 unique words.[7]

Green Eggs and Ham was my favorite book as a young child. My mother could read it as fast as my brother and I could turn the pages.[8] The first film adaptation of Green Eggs and Hamcame in 1973 as part of Dr. Seuss on the Loose. More recently, it inspired a 2019 TV series in which the very selective eater is finally given a name: Guy-Am-I.

Geisel’s first story adapted for film was the Terrytoons cartoon Put on the Spout (1931). Among Geisel’s Terrytoons cartoons was Horton Hatches the Egg (1942), based on his 1940 book.[9]The Cat in the Hat is Geisel’s best-known character,[10] but Geisel’s 14th children’s book is his most adapted story, with versions of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1957) appearing in 1966,1977, 1982, 1992, 2000, 2016, 2018, 2019, and 2020[11], including the 1982 Grinch-Cat cross-over The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat.

All told, more than 90 works have been produced from Geisel’s stories and scripts.[12] Most of them animated shorts, but a few of them live action, or features, or live-action features. All of them available for reference in the EIDR registry.

[1] His full name, Theodore Seuss Geisel, includes his mother’s maiden name as a middle name. “Seuss” is pronounced to rhyme with “voice” (as if it were “Zoice”), though “Dr. Suess” is pronounced to rhyme with “moose” (as if it were “Dr. Soose”). Geisel first adopted the pen name “Seuss” at Dartmouth College after he was banned from all extracurricular activities (including contributing to the Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern, the school’s humor magazine where he had been editor-in-chief) following an on-campus drinking infraction (during Prohibition). He became “Dr. Seuss” in 1928, after dropping out of the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in the English department of Oxford’s Lincoln College the year before. When Dartmouth granted him an honorary doctorate of Human Letters in 1955, Geisel joked that he would then be “Dr. Dr. Seuss.”

[2] Geisel’s first cartoon was published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1927. His work also appeared in Vanity Fair, Life, Liberty, and the humor magazine Judge. He also produced advertisements for Standard Oil, Ford Motor Company, and the NBC Radio Network.

[3] Mulberry Street was pulled from publication by Geisel’s estate in 2021 due to its inclusion of a Chinese racial stenotype among the illustrations.

[4] Geisel’s second academy award-winning film (Best Animated Short) was Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950), based on Geisel’s original story, leading to a series of McBoing-Boing shorts.

[5] This is a poetic pattern where there are 12 syllables per line in 4 groups (or “feet”) of two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable: e.g., da-da-DUM, da-da-DUM, da-da-DUM, da-da-DUM. The lines are then often in rhyming couplets, where every two lines rhyme with each other. This pattern is also famously used in A Visit from St. Nicholas (a.k.a., ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas), published in 1823.

[6] According to Geisel’s instructions that accompanied the manuscript, the book needed “a great color artist who will not be dominated by me.”

[7] Green Eggs and Ham is written using only the words a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you. Only “anywhere” is more than one syllable.

[8] We thought it was hilarious to try to race our mother through the book. I suspect she encouraged this because it meant she could get us to bed faster.

[9] This is a rare case of the sequel being more popular than the original, as Horton Hatches the Egg was later followed by the book Horton Hears a Who (1954) with film adaptations in 1970 (short) and 2009 (feature).

[10] The Cat in the Hat is Dr. Seuss’ mascot, appearing in the “I can read it all by myself” logo for Beginner Books. The Cat’s hat also appears in the Seussville logo and is featured in a number of derivative works not based on Geisel’s original stories, including the series The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! (2010).

[11] The February 2019 edition of “The Engineer’s Room” revealed that How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) is my favorite cartoon of all time. I also have 2nd, 3rd, and 4th favorite cartoons, but those are to be revealed another day. (For those who care to guess, they’re all included in the list of “Richard W. Kroon’s 125 Most Favoritest Shows.”)

[12] Geisel’s only feature film screenplay was The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953), a decidedly surreal financial and critical flop, despite extensive re-cutting and re-shooting.

The Many Works of Dr. Seuss

Title Year EIDR ID
Put on the Spout 1931 10.5240/6CB5-0E9B-58D2-5126-382B-Z
‘Neath the Bababa Tree 1931 10.5240/E5B2-1759-FA3D-11EE-0DF2-8
Horton Hatches the Egg 1942 10.5240/AC8B-91D9-9F1E-B6EA-6870-8
Coming!! Snafu 1943 10.5240/8C0C-1FFA-1A72-5B35-68DF-8
Gripes 1943 10.5240/89D5-363C-EAF2-6AF6-7602-3
Rumors 1943 10.5240/55E3-6746-3A67-FCD8-B204-U
Spies 1943 10.5240/8187-CBF1-C612-5F47-2396-8
The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins 1943 10.5240/5C1C-3843-D1D8-2F0F-4FD0-H
The Goldbrick 1943 10.5240/E51C-BB12-0752-FC34-6B35-F
The Home Front 1943 10.5240/CB1E-C228-EB1C-2794-69BC-P
The Infantry Blues 1943 10.5240/79CC-813F-78DF-B28D-7A03-H
A Few Quick Facts 1944 10.5240/84F3-4853-8375-6E45-8260-O
A Lecture on Camouflage 1944 10.5240/6E44-5C46-EC25-FC1C-CFF8-V
And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street 1944 10.5240/FD76-C85C-3272-C64B-9719-3
Booby Traps 1944 10.5240/619D-B3CE-63D7-75E7-4429-5
Censored 1944 10.5240/B2A6-C1D2-9235-5F2E-C4A3-D
Gas 1944 10.5240/92E6-B3D8-F095-CFF4-1EC0-7
Going Home 1944 10.5240/F503-AD55-813D-29D1-EBA5-J
Outpost 1944 10.5240/F91A-D667-D7A0-5F0D-1ABB-V
Pay Day 1944 10.5240/09A0-73EC-6922-5108-4635-7
Private Snafu vs. Malaria Mike 1944 10.5240/CEFF-106D-0652-B973-40A2-T
Snafuperman 1944 10.5240/E0BC-7290-265B-3880-D333-D
Target Snafu 1944 10.5240/4275-6253-CE30-FC15-4947-F
The Chow Hound 1944 10.5240/F708-023D-CF88-E8C0-BD08-X
Three Brothers 1944 10.5240/707D-B9B6-8DE2-E88A-9B24-M
A Few Quick Facts: Fear 1945 10.5240/A2C6-C7E3-670F-2D08-66FD-Z
Hot Spot 1945 10.5240/06F3-1D1B-76AD-5D1C-27E0-G
In the Aleutians 1945 10.5240/A3E3-87FA-39AE-D1F6-EBBC-D
It’s Murder She Says… 1945 10.5240/BAF6-AAA5-6263-7DFE-DBA0-Y
No Buddy Atoll 1945 10.5240/AA2E-A257-32DE-3CE9-4012-M
Operation Snafu 1945 10.5240/23B6-4022-E53B-AAA4-5C91-A
Our Job in Japan 1945 10.5240/AF3F-FBE4-F815-EE5A-99A7-9
Your Job in Germany 1945 10.5240/22C7-3AA9-D2C7-87A8-44DC-C
Private Snafu Presents Seaman Tarfu in the Navy 1946 10.5240/B9D1-0608-8A82-27A9-FBBE-N
Design for Death 1947 10.5240/BCC7-87FF-9459-930F-C12B-B
Our American Heritage 1947 10.5240/5365-CD4C-838A-6A8B-CA5B-T
Gerald McBoing-Boing 1950 10.5240/9193-6A95-F8CD-E826-E11B-N
The Costume Designer 1950 10.5240/0E8E-F39C-2C42-ADDB-A813-C
Gerald McBoing-Boing’s Symphony 1953 10.5240/D902-6C11-04AF-BBC8-DB26-E
The 5, 000 Fingers of Dr. T. 1953 10.5240/4A9E-E277-5916-F389-DAF4-5
How Now Boing Boing 1954 10.5240/2D49-2F89-71AB-F6FB-A9EF-F
Gerald McBoing! Boing! on Planet Moo 1956 10.5240/AA8B-D993-45B2-FFA8-7308-F
The Gerald McBoing-Boing Show 1956 10.5240/6D05-296A-D625-2FEB-E0A5-4
The Big Fun Carnival 1957 10.5240/CC63-0A11-44A6-8721-8C5F-U
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 1966 10.5240/C89F-0FF3-A4A5-6EC5-2988-B
Ya zhdu ptentsa 1966 10.5240/F9D0-83A3-946D-7CEA-DE0D-O
Horton Hears a Who! 1970 10.5240/D3FB-CEC1-4D58-6BAD-3A9B-A
Great Performances 1971 10.5240/9219-D8A2-7E01-D3C9-6DED-M
The Cat in the Hat 1971 10.5240/2CE0-2178-F55A-BA91-841F-K
The Lorax 1972 10.5240/5202-2109-90B4-9325-6C36-4
Dr. Seuss on the Loose 1973 10.5240/31B2-BA02-1FC7-E94A-CCC9-O
The Hoober-Bloob Highway 1975 10.5240/0840-AA43-2F7A-705C-6CB1-7
It’s Grinch Night 1977 10.5240/FF50-3053-8EE2-D9BB-BE25-U
Pontoffel Pock, Where Are You? 1980 10.5240/BEA0-1E7E-2316-1BA7-6985-O
The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat 1982 10.5240/DA43-6F64-9AB5-5A90-B675-M
Kot v kolpake 1984 10.5240/E2A6-8216-C601-652F-71A5-7
Dobro pozhalovat! 1986 10.5240/5748-24B2-BFF6-CFCF-FB0D-X
Dr. Seuss’ ABC 1989 10.5240/DEEB-9D3B-2BDA-0FAA-E693-0
The Butter Battle Book 1989 10.5240/0417-25D2-2A9A-B873-ACB8-J
Dr. Seuss: I Am Not Going to Get Up Today! 1991 10.5240/A980-A8B6-C589-6274-5A6F-R
Horton Hatches the Egg 1992 10.5240/77F6-CE71-FE6B-2BED-333C-L
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 1992 10.5240/5F66-FB27-F9B2-9045-00E6-1
If I Ran the Zoo 1992 10.5240/8DD0-A98C-2C69-BD75-4407-X
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories 1992 10.5240/C9B2-D58D-0FCC-0D64-BCDF-U
In Search of Dr. Seuss 1994 10.5240/813A-C237-D635-DD47-39F5-5
Daisy-Head Mayzie 1995 10.5240/8DF4-0EA2-B799-C598-B996-U
Living Books: Dr. Seuss’ ABC 1995 10.5240/319F-3E4B-F466-F625-77F0-O
The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss 1996 10.5240/4290-DECA-79EB-072D-5083-5
Living Books: The Cat in the Hat 1997 10.5240/83DF-A847-501C-25C3-0960-J
How the Grinch Stole Christmas 2000 10.5240/C26D-9629-B1C1-234E-2A7E-F
The Grinch 2000 10.5240/CB08-8E85-D0CA-06F3-967B-N
The Cat in the Hat 2003 10.5240/1882-D053-B1D6-64DC-1DFE-Y
Gerald McBoing Boing 2005 10.5240/DAA9-7FFC-399F-73CD-6A47-L
Horton Hears a Who! 2008 10.5240/F9D2-FAB8-907B-B856-6F2B-D
Red Beans & Jam 2008 10.5240/EDB3-53BD-1909-B619-5DD5-J
The Angry Video Game Nerd 2010 10.5240/C1A2-388E-A03A-D018-B21C-E
The Cat in the Hat 2010 10.5240/453E-D3F1-9070-525A-AD29-D
Forces of Nature 2012 10.5240/85F3-755F-17D2-E7A6-1A25-U
Serenade 2012 10.5240/4444-2F5A-4A13-606C-B407-A
The Lorax 2012 10.5240/E3DC-D618-46E2-0BA8-D546-4
Wagon Ho! 2012 10.5240/0E53-A807-B096-F808-3769-T
Diminishing Returns 2016 10.5240/2DB7-B9D6-6A90-CDFA-0D1F-C
Fuck Green Eggs and Ham 2016 10.5240/557A-B725-F261-44E4-048E-C
Grinch Hunters 2016 10.5240/DF5D-CFB5-4123-823E-0FAF-2
Wacky Wednesday 2016 10.5240/5BBB-0BA5-06C8-5F39-AB85-1
Crazy Concertos 2018 10.5240/8F31-937B-87AA-8610-C7A3-E
The Grinch 2018 10.5240/F1CD-3253-73D2-DFC0-6019-C
Green Eggs and Ham 2019 10.5240/D08D-22D8-B0A3-29D7-3F8B-G
How the Grinch Stole Christmas 2019 10.5240/B3AA-E4FF-67EB-94CE-032B-O
Dr. Seuss’ the Grinch Musical 2020 10.5240/6F07-BFF0-3177-4AAB-7D04-5
Dr. Seuss’ the Zax 2020 10.5240/F2EF-D2E0-8A68-329A-136C-4
Gotham Reads 2020 10.5240/4D8B-EEDE-A888-C6FC-0764-R
Storytime 2020 10.5240/0488-31B2-8301-4D7B-E4C8-2