Title/Author: Becoming Dr. Seuss by Brian Jay Jones
In a nutshell (Publisher):
Dr. Seuss is a classic American icon. Whimsical and wonderful, his work has defined our childhoods and the childhoods of our own children. The silly, simple rhymes are a bottomless well of magic, his illustrations timeless favorites because, quite simply, he makes us laugh. The Grinch, the Cat in the Hat, Horton, and so many more, are his troupe of beloved, and uniquely Seussian, creations.
Theodor Geisel, however, had a second, more radical side. It is there that the allure and fasciation of his Dr. Seuss alter ego begins. He had a successful career as an advertising man and then as a political cartoonist, his personal convictions appearing, not always subtly, throughout his books—remember the environmentalist of The Lorax? Geisel was a complicated man on an important mission. He introduced generations to the wonders of reading while teaching young people about empathy and how to treat others well.
Agonizing over word choices and rhymes, touching up drawings sometimes for years, he upheld a rigorous standard of perfection for his work. Geisel took his responsibility as a writer for children seriously, talking down to no reader, no matter how small. And with classics like Green Eggs and Ham, and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Geisel delighted them while they learned. Suddenly, reading became fun.
Coming right of the heels off George Lucas and bestselling Jim Henson, Brian Jay Jones is quickly developing a reputation as a master biographer of the creative geniuses of our time.
I am a
big HUUUUUGE fan of Dr Seuss’s works. So when I saw this on NetGalley I knew I had to read it.
This biography is incredibly well-written and researched. I learned so much more about Dr Seuss and I am now even more in awe of his works.
With more than 60 books to his name, Dr Seuss became a household name for children’s books. Going against the grain of a typical children’s book during his time, he became an author in his own right, with his own style and voice.
It surprised me to know that he had never set out to be a children’s book author, in fact, he didn’t even like children, (nor had any of his own) what more writing for them, and when he finally did, it was more of a ‘monetary calling than a moral one‘. This decision not only changed his perspective of a children’s book author, but also the children’s books industry.
His writing speaks volumes of himself – fun (he’s such a great prankster too! Loved the pranks he pulled! Hilarious!), witty, whimsical, and spontaneous! He was also stubborn to a fault, with a devil may care attitude, which clearly showed by his reluctance to change his stereotypical illustration from his Mulberry Street book despite the pressure from his readers and those around him.
The book that catapulted him to fame is… yes, you guessed it, The Cat in the Hat, which resulted from a challenge he accepted, that was to write a book using just 225 words or less . It took him more than a year to illustrate and write it, and it wasn’t even his favorite book! Guess which was? The Lorax, which whole book was written on an afternoon on a laundry pad, after a writer’s block for a long 9 months.
In addition to his success as an author and illustrator, he was also a screenwriter and his last 3 films had each won an Academy Award. He was also a political cartoonist. Talking about talent! And after years of sweat, blood and cigarettes, he finally won the Pulitzer prize, much to his surprise.
There were many parts that I enjoyed reading, especially about his participation in war and that he was recruited by Frank Capra, a man whom he credited for forming and developing his skills as a storyteller.
I do not, however, enjoy reading about what happened to his first wife, Helen. It was utterly heartbreaking, as I really loved the chemistry between them.
You’ll also find out more about his other books (even those not written for children) and the inspiration behind them – like ‘The Butter Batter Book’ that he wrote which baffled many people, particularly his marketing team; ‘You’re Only Old Once!’ that was inspired by his hospital visits and the character he drew was of someone he knew, and ‘Green Eggs and Ham‘ which was written on a dare to use only 50 words or less. In writing this book, it ‘required him to create complicated charts, checklists. and multiple word counts as he struggled to keep track of exactly which and how many words he was using.’
This is a must-read for all Dr Seuss’s fans! Jones’ brilliant writing made this tome a pleasure to read.
*Quotes included here are from an advanced readers copy and are subject to change upon final publication.
Thank you Netgalley and Penguin Group Dutton for providing me a free eARC of this book! All opinions are mine.
Have you read this book? Did you like it? If you haven’t, do you plan to read it? Please share with me your thoughts!
Thank you for dropping by and HAPPY READING!