Seuss in the Neuss

September 29, 1991

Who doesn't love Dr. Seuss? Today's children read "The Lorax" as their parents read "Yertle the Turtle" as their grandparents read "The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins." Kids dress up for Halloween as the Cat in the Hat. They recite the tongue-twisters of "Fox in Socks" as the ancient bards recited the Iliad. "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" shines in the holiday's secular pantheon, the peer of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and of Santa himself.

Dr. Seuss' subject matter was zooks and yooks, ziffs and nerkles, truffula trees and The Who! Somebody had to show us what they looked like, so even though he couldn't draw, or so he said, the Dr. revealed a gallery of pop-eyed creatures that looked like they had been randomly assembled from spare parts at a rummage sale.

Dr. Seuss, a k a Theodor Geisel, died last Tuesday at 87. His passing was in headlines because Seuss is Neuss. To be sure, he had his detractors. Some right-wingers grumbled that "The Butter Battle Book" preached the moral equivalence of the Cold War superpowers. Some educators carped that the facile sing-song of such works as "One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish" did little to ennoble the intellect and amounted to kid-lit lite.

What do they know? If you want to know about Dr. Seuss, ask a kid -- or anybody who was a kid between 1937 ("And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street") and last year ("Oh, the Places You'll Go!"). Librarians say his books are always checked out. Four of the top 10n best-selling children's books of all time are Dr. Seuss'. In 1984 he won a Pulitzer Prize for his services to children's literature. He said he was proudest of the fact that children loved to read his books aloud; it showed he had "something to do with getting rid of 'Dick and Jane.' " Our own favorite: "Green Eggs and Ham."

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