Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 5, 2004

By SUE ELLEN ROSS – Staff Reporter

RIVER PARISHES – It’s rare that an entire nation celebrates a book author’s birthday with numerous events, some lasting for days.

Such was the case this past week. Parties, games and programs throughout the United States honored the 100th birthday of Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss.)

One of the festivities, Reading Across America, is a national event that brings readers of all ages together. Many local schools invited guests from the community to read books to the children.

The reading theme continued throughout the week, as students made Dr. Seuss crafts, enjoyed storytime pajama parties and even acted on some of the things portrayed in the many books the beloved author wrote.

Green eggs and Ham were on the breakfast menu Tuesday at John L. Ory Elementary School. Most of the students moved excitedly through the food line to receive their special treat, but there were a few that declined the delicacy. “Some of the kids asked if the eggs were rotten,” laughed cafeteria worker Brenda Exum.

The school makes the unique breakfast foods each year in reflection of Dr. Seuss’ story, ‘Green Eggs and ham,’ according to cafeteria manager Barbara Oubre. Although a few of the children turned up their noses at the scrambled eggs with pieces of fresh ham, they seems fascinated by the bright color. “I told them it was just green food coloring (in the eggs) but they still wouldn’t eat them,” she added.

After breakfast, students from East St. John High School served as guest readers for the morning.

At LaPlace Elementary School, many community members, as well as officials, participated in the Read Across America program on Tuesday.

Among the guest readers were St. John Parish School Superintendent Mike Coburn, reading a favorite book to one of the first-grade classes; and L’Observateur’s publisher, Ellen Ishmael, who shared a story with fourth-grade students.

On the West Bank, St. John Rotary Club members Dean Torres, Sean Doody and Cathy Holmes visited West St. John Elementary School. They entertained students with Dr. Seuss stories on Friday.

The St. John Child Development Center also did their part in celebrating Dr. Seuss and his achievements.

All Pre-K classes met in the cafeteria for storytime Friday, complete with pajamas. Various community members spent the morning reading Dr. Seuss books to the group of 11 classes. “This gives the students an opportunity to see their peers in the same reading environment,” said speech therapist Bernetta Ambres. “It also shows them reading can be fun.”

Born in Massachusetts on March 2, 1904, Geisel began drawing at a young age. He continued his education after high school at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

After graduation in 1925, he moved to England. His first career choice was to become a college professor. That didn’t pan out, so he returned to America to work in advertising.

During his spare time, Geisel began to write.

His first venture was an illustrated alphabet book, which no one would publish.

Disappointed, he put his journalistic skills on the back burner for the next few years.

Then, during a trip in 1936, Dr. Seuss was inspired to pen another book, ‘And To Think I saw It On Mulberry Street.’

Again, he had trouble finding someone that liked his work. He visited 43 different publishers, to no avail.

Finally, a friend took the risk and published the new book in 1937. This was the first time Geisel used his pen name, Dr. Seuss, which was his mother’s maiden name.

The talented author went on to write 53 more books, mostly for children. In addition to the Dr. Seuss pen name, he also used Theo LeSieg (which is Geisel spelled backward.)

Dr. Seuss died Sept. 24, 1991. His books have been published in 20 different languages, giving him the distinction of the most popular children’s author in the world.