Mental Floss

The Quick 10: Stories Behind 10 Dr. Seuss Stories

Stacy Conradt
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On this day in 1991, the world lost a classic writer and artist "“ Dr. Seuss (AKA Theodor Geisel). I know the _floss has done stories on Dr. Seuss before, so I thought we'd go a little bit different route today "“ the stories behind his stories.

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1. The Lorax. In case you haven't read The Lorax, it's widely recognized as Dr. Seuss' take on environmentalism and how humans are destroying nature. The logging industry was so upset about the book that some groups within the industry sponsored The Truax, a similar book but from the logging point of view. Another interesting fact: the book used to contain the line, "I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie," but 14 years after the book was published, the Ohio Sea Grant Program wrote to Seuss and told him how much the conditions had improved and implored him to take the line out. Dr. Seuss agreed and said that it wouldn't be in future editions.

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3. If I Ran the Zoo, published in 1950, is the first recorded instance of the word "nerd".

4. The Cat in the Hat was written basically because Dr. Seuss thought the famous Dick and Jane primers were insanely boring.

Because kids weren't interested in the material, they weren't exactly compelled to use it repeatedly in their efforts to learn to read. So, The Cat in the Hat was born, and I must agree: it's definitely more interesting.

5. Green Eggs and Ham. Bennett Cerf, Dr. Seuss' editor, bet him thaat he couldn't write a book using 50 words or less. The Cat in the Hat was pretty simple, after all, and it used 225 words. Not one to back down from a challenge, Mr. Geisel started writing and came up with Green Eggs and Ham "“ which uses exactly 50 words. The 50 words, by the way, are: a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you.

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7. Yertle the Turtle = Hitler? Yep. If you haven't read the story, here's a little overview: Yertle is the king of the pond, but he wants more. He demands that other turtles stack themselves up so he can sit on top of them to survey the land. Mack, the turtle at the bottom, is exhausted. He asks Yertle for a rest; Yertle ignores him and demands more turtles for a better view. Eventually, Yertle notices the moon and is furious that anything dare be higher than himself, and is about ready to call for more turtles when Mack burps. This sudden movement topples the whole stack, sends Yertle flying into the mud, and frees the rest of the turtles from their stacking duty. Dr. Seuss actually said Yertle was a representation of Hitler. Despite the political nature of the book, none of that was disputed at Random House "“ what was disputed was Mack's burp. No one had ever let a burp loose in a children's book before, so it was a little dicey. In the end, obviously, Mack burped.

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9. Oh The Places You'll Go is Dr. Seuss' final book, published in 1990. It sells about 300,000 copies every year because so many people give it to college and high school grads.

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Tony the Tiger, AKA Thurl Ravenscroft (who is also a singer in my absolute favorite Disney attraction, the Haunted Mansion), is the voice behind "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." He received no credit on screen for it, so Dr. Seuss wrote to pretty much every columnist in every major newspaper in the U.S. telling them exactly who the famous song was sung by.

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