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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thank You, Theodor

Dear Dr. Seuss,
it is truer than true,
the person I'm thankfullest for
would be you.

The people who know me best, incorrigible rhymeaholic that I am, will not be surprised that Dr. Seuss is who I feel most indebted to and most inspired by during this month of giving thanks.  I wanted to grow up to rhyme just like he did.  And back in 2003 when a reviewer of Here's What You Do When You Can't Find Your Shoe called it "...high-spirited verse of the light variety, enhanced by Seussian silliness...", I knew I could die a happy woman. 
Growing up, loving Dr. Seuss was a family affair.  My sisters and I were performing The Big Brag here in 1967 at our grandparents' house.  You can't really tell, but it was standing room only.  We brought the house down, or perhaps it was just the Christmas tree that later came down behind my sister Anne during an encore performance... 
Dr. Seuss' "unique nonsense books for children" were right up our alley.  In a family of eight children, who wouldn't love a story about a woman who had 23 sons and named them all Dave?  We loved every Sneetch and Lorax, every Umbus and Thnad. It was all so wonderfully silly.  Green Eggs and Ham? The Cat in the Hat? We loved performing the stories just to be a part of them, albeit briefly.  At the time I remember thinking the rhyme made it easier to memorize, or perhaps it was just that we'd already read our lines over and over and over again because we loved how Seuss tickled our tongues.
Fast forward now to me the children's author, rhyming along poem by poem.  I finally get a contract for my first book with Caitlyn Dlouhy at Atheneum and am thrilled. But what does she tell me that very same day? That rhyme is nearly impossible to sell since so much of it is done so poorly.  Curses! But I am not daunted.  That same year Hooray for Diffendoofer Day is published, begun by Dr. Seuss but completed by Jack Prelutsky and Lane Smith.  And in the back of the book, the most fabulous thing I've ever seen.  Reproductions of original  notes for the book - rough drafts that showed Dr. Seuss searching for just the right word, trying out different names for the school, for the teachers, crossing out some, adding others, scribbling and scratching along until he got it just right.  I don't know why I'd ever assumed that he just wrote one perfect version of everything, but this evidence of the trial and error way that even the great Dr. Seuss wrote made me feel validated. Rhyme didn't come so very easily to him all the time either! So I still love rhyme and I still write rhyme and I still get to read Dr. Seuss.  Have you seen the new/old The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories?
Yes, woe be to he
who is rhymeless and Seussless
for such an existence
is utterly useless.
Be thankful this Thursday
for turkey or goose,
while in my own home
I'll be thankful for Seuss.

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