Friday, August 19, 2016

Creator of The Cat and All That! Dr. Seuss: The Great Doodler by Kate Klimo

He got his love of reading and wordplay from his mother.

Thanks to his father, Theodor, Ted became interested in machines. His father tinkered, making wacky inventions in his shop daily.

From an early age, Ted liked to doodle.

Put together a penchant for playing with words, offbeat inventions, and doodling strange characters and what do you get?

In the case of young Theodor Seuss Geisel, you get a cartoonist, an adman, a beloved author, the creator of a genre for beginning readers, a publisher, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of children's literature.

Young Ted loved to visit the nearby zoo and draw the animals, even though his father once remarked,

"His animals never did look like the real thing!"

But undeterred, Ted took his wacky animal doodles with him to Dartmouth College, where his curious critters became the stars of cartoons, signed simply "Seuss," in the college humor magazine. At Oxford, he met an English girl, Helen Palmer, married her, and the new couple returned home for Ted to try to turn his cartoons into a career. His comic drawings in the Saturday Evening Post caught the eye of an advertising agency, and he was tapped to create a series of ads for a new insect spray called Flit, in which Ted combined his own idea of his father's wacky inventions, his mother's wordplay, and his doodly characters to create comic advertisements with the popular slogan "Don't Get Bit! Get Flit!" Ted Geisel the adman was on his way, soon having a blast drawing mechanical gizmos for his popular EssoLube advertisements.

But when World War II intervened, Ted was drafted to create everything from humorous educational posters on how to avoid malaria mosquitoes to propaganda in which he deftly caricatured Nazi leaders, along with other up-and-coming cartoon artists such as Chuck Jones and P. D. Eastman.

And when the war ended, Ted Geisel turned to his first love, children's picture books, and began to create a series of classics, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (Classic Seuss), and funny/serious looks at ecology such as The Lorax (Classic Seuss))and nuclear war (The Butter Battle Book: (New York Times Notable Book of the Year) (Classic Seuss)). Ted Geisel also invented the easy reader genre and founded his own publishing group, Beginner Books, hiring his old Army buddy P.D. Eastman, (who created best-selling books like By P. D. Eastman Are You My Mother (I CAN READ IT ALL BY MYSELF.) and Go, Dog Go (I Can Read It All By Myself, Beginner Books) for emergent readers) and nearing the end of his life, he finished his forty-fourth book, the optimistic and still best-selling Oh, The Places You'll Go!

It was quite a life, chronicled here by noted author Kate Klimo, with illustrations by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, in Dr. Seuss: The Great Doodler (Step into Reading) (Random House, 2016).  Just right for those first biography book reports and for Read Across America Day, yearly celebrating Dr. Seuss's own birthday, this Level 3 mini-chapter book is perfect for youngsters just learning to read for information as well as pleasure.

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