March 3, 2004

A Century Later, Seuss Still Makes Us Laugh

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Had Theodor Geisel, known the world over as “Dr. Seuss,” been alive yesterday, he could have celebrated his 100th birthday at dozens of parties held in his honor all over the country. Yesterday, the Cornell Store took part in an initiative begun by “Seussentennial: A Century of Imagination,” a national celebratory tour, marking the 100th anniversary of Geisel’s birth.

The author of 44 children’s books published in twenty languages, Geisel is credited with revolutionizing children’s literature. His most noteworthy works include The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Witty, funny, colorful and energetic, Dr. Seuss’ books have entertained both children and parents alike for nearly 70 years.

Beginning the day with a serving of green eggs and ham and concluding it with a reading of One Fish Two Fish by President Emeritus Hunter R. Rawlings III, the Cornell Store hosted back-to-back events all day in celebration of Geisel’s birthday. Other celebratory events included a birthday party with young students at Cornell’s Early Childhood Center, two birthday cake-cutting ceremonies by Thing 1 and Thing 2 — characters in The Cat in The Hat — and readings by Elizabeth Rawlings and Prof. James B. Maas ’63, psychology. In addition to Things 1 and 2, other Cornell Store employees were dressed as Seuss characters the grinch and the cat in the hat.

Joan Manheim, marketing manager of the Cornell Store and coordinator of the birthday celebration, was pleased with the day’s proceedings and was enthusiastic to celebrate the life of an author whose creativity entertained generations of children and parents. “Dr. Seuss appeals to all ages,” she said. “We all remember Dr. Seuss stories growing up.”

Manheim added that even at a university book store where the majority of patrons are adults, there is a consistent demand for Dr. Seuss books. “Oh the Places You’ll Go! is quite popular during graduation time,” she said.

In addition to birthday celebrations across the nation, the Seussentennial will include the issuing of a commemorative postal service stamp, a forty city tour of theatrical performances and children’s workshops, book reviews and the presentation of an honorary star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, among other events.

While Geisel’s first book, And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street, was published in 1937, literary critics continue to marvel at the profound impact that Dr. Seuss has made on children’s literature, noting that his legacy is still quite evident today. According to literary scholars and education experts, Geisel introduced a genre of children’s literature that provided an alternative to the bland, didactic “Dick and Jane” books by offering readers a dose of humor, wit and rhyme.

According to Prof. Philip Nel, english, Kansas State University, and author of Dr. Seuss: American Icon, Seuss’ plots and characters were different in that they demonstrated heroic rebellion and ironic twists.

Describing these rebellious characters in the Chicago Tribune, Nel said, “The go against the grain. They don’t do what they are expected to do.”

While Geisel had no children of his own, the Dr. Seuss legacy has been overseen and protected by his wife Audrey for nearly 13 years following his death.

Archived article by Ellen Miller