In 1936, Ted Geisel wrote his first children’s story, called A Story That No One Can Beat. But he had trouble getting it published.
Twenty-seven publishing houses rejected Geisel’s story, deemed “too different” for children’s books. Frustrated and fed up, Ted started walking back to his New York apartment and decided to return to his career as a magazine humorist and cartoonist. He planned to burn the manuscript when he got home.
That’s when he ran into an old colleague from school who just got hired as a juvenile editor three hours earlier.
A Story That No One Can Beat was subsequently published as And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, the first in a long list of children’s titles from the legendary Geisel – aka Dr. Seuss – a list that includes The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hears A Who!, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Along the way, he completely transformed the face of children’s publishing and became the best-selling author in the field ever.
Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel
The biography Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel describes all these events and more, covering this legend’s early years in Springfield, Massachusetts to his eventual international success and fame.
I recently picked up this book for some light and interesting reading, but it quickly became more than that. I was surprised at how much I was engaged in the man’s story and history. I sped through the book, and when I had finished I found it had deeply influenced and inspired me. It has become one of my favorite books, and I highly recommend it.
A Lesson in Creativity
The book gives a good glimpse of the creative process behind a true genius. He worked uncommonly hard and was completely dedicated to his craft. “You have to put in your hours, and finally you make it work,” he would say. He was also a perfectionist and was his own worst critic, struggling for months with a simple verse, or haggling with the printer about finding the perfect green. In my work as a freelance illustrator, trying to be creative every day, working to stay inspired, and struggling to create good artwork, I could really relate to stories like these.
Especially for Children’s Illustrators
Dr. Seuss’s story is also a history lesson in children’s literature. He changed the mentality behind children’s books; The Cat in the Hat is said to be the death of the bland Dick and Jane readers and was the launchpad for Random House’s new publishing division Beginner Books. He was a champion for children’s literacy and struggled to create work that was fun and educational, but not condescending. His opinions and theories are great lessons for modern-day writers and artists working in the industry.
Work hard, love your craft, live life and have fun – and don’t be afraid to be yourself. All great lessons, and all are contained in the story of Dr. Seuss.
Buy Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel on Amazon.com