Teaching: The Logical Insanity of Dr. Seuss

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Points Against Prejudice. While Dr. Seuss's young readers laugh, they also learn the value of patience from Horton, who sits on a bird's egg in a tree for eleven trying months, gets his reward when he hatches an elephant-bird. Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose is a model of kindness who lets animals ride on his horns because "a host, above all, must be nice to his guests." Geisel wrote about "star-bellied Sneetches," who thought they were better than "plain-bellied Sneetches," to score points against prejudice. He does not mind being called "the greatest moralist since Elsie Dinsmore," contends that it is both right and inevitable that "you can find a moral in anything you read."

The Massachusetts-born Geisel has a B.A. degree from Dartmouth and studied at Oxford University, but has had no art training since walking out on a high-school art teacher who refused to let him draw with his drawing board turned upside down. A cartoon of egg-nog-drinking turtles that he sold to Judge magazine in 1927 financed his marriage to fellow Oxford Student Helen Palmer, who helps him develop his story lines. His career got a big boost when his advertising cartoons for an insecticide made the caption "Quick, Henry, the Flit!" a common household quip. He was a cartoonist for the New York daily PM, created the prizewinning "Gerald McBoing-Boing" movie cartoons, and has completed a book of original songs for children.

Geisel, who considers his work "logical insanity," gets a wry chuckle out of all the profound Ph.D. papers written about his books. He views himself —and most creative people—as those who "compensate for something—you wouldn't start building something new unless you were dissatisfied with what you've got." Perhaps, he adds with a smile, "we are all psychotic." Maybe so, but under the spell of Dr. Seuss, a cat that wears a hat and an elephant that sits in a tree somehow seem more normal than a Dick and Jane who chase a ball.

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