School kids around the world celebrate all things Dr. Seuss today, as he was born on this date 106 years ago. Kids will don funny accessories to emulate the Cat in the Hat, dine on delicacies like Green Eggs and Ham and hopefully read a famous tale or two as part of Read Across America, an initiative created by the National Education Association. Dr. Seuss, whose given name was Theodor Seuss Geisel, was known as a jokester and for his unique use of funny animals as reading enticements.
Why the Nom de Plume?
In college at Dartmouth, Geisel was editor-in-chief of a humor magazine. After being caught drinking gin with friends (which violated national prohibition laws at the time), he was asked by school administrators to quit all extracurricular activities. Geisel did not want to give up writing for the humor magazine that he so loved and instead began signing his work with the pen name “Seuss.”
Milwaukean Stacy Sullivan reports that her grandfather, Stanton Kinnie Smith from Rockford, Illinois, knew Geisel at Dartmouth. Her grandfather shared stories of how Geisel was a practical joker. He liked to go to a park near campus, probably to sketch the animals he would later create caricatures of. One day, a police officer blew his whistle and accused Geisel of stealing public property–Geisel was carrying a bench out of the park. He surprised the accusing officer by asking him to examine the underside of the bench. After inspection, the officer learned he’d been duped–Geisel owned the official park bench replica carried it with him as a joke.
Thing One and Thing Two Are Not All Fun and Games
A May 1954 Life magazine report on illiteracy concluded that children were not learning to read because their books were boring. A list of 250 words important for first-graders to recognize was created. Geisel was hired to write a book “that children can’t put down”–using only those words. Geisel turned to humor, animals and trisyllabic meter. Nine months later, The Cat in the Hat was created using 236 of those words. Some say it is the most popular “beginning to read” book ever published.
The Power of Animals
Geisel’s love of animals probably stems from growing up as a zoo superintendent’s son. He often sketched the animals entrusted to his father’s care, but added twists not usually found in nature. It is reported that he liked to add body parts to his animals–an extra tail or limb–even at a young age. In all of Geisel’s children’s books, crazy-looking animals are featured. Their wacky twists make kids laugh, smile and want to read on. But they also often model traits like dedication and love. He knew the power that animals have on kids and used it to teach kids to read.
Krause Funeral Homes knows that children often respond well to animals too. We offer dove & butterfly releases that can signify the end of the funeral or the circle of life.
Oliver, Krause Funeral Homes’ trained, on-staff therapy dog, is a hit with children; and for many, petting or hugging Oliver has a calming effect and triggers happy memories. He is a hypoallergenic Portuguese Water Dog and has completed Canine Good Citizen and therapy dog training. In addition to attending funerals, Oliver often visits hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and children’s facilities as a community service. His presence at funerals is optional and free of charge.
While Oliver can’t comfort or teach with words, he can help break the ice, create a needed diversion and draw people out.
In the words of Dr. Seuss: “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”