It’s Dr. Seuss’ birthday today. It may have snuck up on you; you may have seen it coming. If I’m breaking the news for you, I hope my announcement was straightforward enough to suit your tastes. I’m not a big fan of saying a lot, when a little will suffice.

Now that I’ve pointed out that today would be his birthday (he would be 114 today, had he not passed away in 1991 or any of the succeeding years between then and now), I feel engaged to write something to pay a measure of homage to the impact he had on my life. Maybe he had an impact on your life too, but I won’t saddle you with anything that feels like obligation. After all, for you, this may just be March second and nothing more.

Born in 1904, he wasn’t an actual doctor. He did, however, pull down a degree from Dartmouth and worked on a college humor magazine called the Jack-O-Lantern. He got caught drinking gin in his dorm room with friends and was kicked off of the magazine by the Dartmouth Dean of Students. He’d broken a little law known as Prohibition. He wanted to continue working on the magazine, so he adopted the pen name, Seuss. Being of German descent, he pronounced the name “Soice” as in “voice.” When he gained fame as an author of children’s books, the publication house changed the pronunciation to rhyme with another source of children’s literature, Mother Goose.

Most of his original work was built around illustration and cartoons. He spent a number of years drawing for both Vanity Fair and Life Magazine. His first published book was a 1931 book of humor for adults called Boners, a term that implied silly stories of misfortune at the time of publication. The book was filled with funny stories of goofs and mishaps, the kinds of things you might find on a gag reel of movie extras on a DVD. He followed the book with 3 additional volumes of similar content and his publisher compiled them into volume called “The Pocket Book of Boners” and sold nearly 1½ million copies during WW2. For comparison sake, the first print run of Hemmingway’s “For Whom The Bell Tolls,” in 1940, was only 75 thousand copies.

Seuss is best known for his children’s stories though. That’s how I got to know the good Dr. and I’m betting that’s what you associate with his name as well. The overall list of books is long and when Publisher’s Weekly compiled a list of the 100 best-selling children’s books of all time in the year 2000, there were 16 books on the list.

Green Eggs and Ham is the best-selling book of the lot, with over 8 million copies sold, but The Cat in the Hat showed up and came back before Sam burst on the scene peddling his breakfast combo platter. The Grinch also stole Christmas before Sam came along and the book that introduced readers to red fish and blue fish was on the shelves as well.

The interesting stand out thing about Green Eggs and Ham is that while super-salesman Sam is named repeatedly throughout the book, his hot prospect, that is eventually won over to the joys of a green breakfast dish, goes nameless. As the story goes, Seuss had a bet with his editor, Bennett Cerf, over the total number of different words that he needed to compose a readable book. The limit was 50 and Seuss was out of words. Hence, one of the best-known residents of Seussville goes without a moniker of any kind.

I’ve no idea how many different words I’ve used thus far, but the word processing program tells me that the total word count is closing in on 650, so I’d like to wrap this up with one Seussian thought that I hope sticks with you.

Theodor Seuss Geisel passed away 26 years ago. Some of you have children that have children that are now reading the work he published in his mid-50’s. He was 53 when the Cat in the Hat introduced us to Thing 1 and Thing 2, and he was closing in on 57 when he won a bet with his publisher and published his best-selling work and left his most memorable footprint in the sands of time.

Do what you love and love what you do; always bet on yourself and put your best foot forward. Each new day affords you the opportunity to leave something behind that makes the world a better place. Whether in a box, with a fox, or in the rain, on a train, no greater opportunity has ever been given to anyone, anywhere, at any point in time than that which is given to us each new day.

Forget all the boners in your past and crack open a couple of fresh eggs. Everyone deserves a good breakfast.

Quick Links to Mark’s Books on Amazon:

Mark D. Combs
Don’t Forget Your Cape
Mark D. Combs
Mark D. Combs

Comments are closed.