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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 March, 2004, 21:11 GMT
10 facts about Dr Seuss
A new US stamp
A new US stamp: Both Dr Seuss and the Cat in the Hat liked bow ties
It's the 100th anniversary on Tuesday of the birth of the children's writer, Dr Seuss, author of classics such as The Cat in the Hat, and Green Eggs and Ham.

Who was he and where did he live? What was the source of those bizarre ideas? BBC News Online answers 10 questions you may have wanted to ask about one of the big cats of children's publishing.

1. Was Dr Seuss his real name?

Not exactly. His name was Theodore Seuss Geisel - Seuss being his mother's maiden name. He started using it as a pseudonym at university. He added the Dr later, as a joke, because his father had always wanted him to get a doctorate and become a professor.

2. How many books did he write?

Between 1937 and 1991, when he died aged 87, he published more than 40 books, which have sold half a billion copies between them - more even than J K Rowling's Harry Potter books. He nearly burned his first book, And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street, after it was turned down by 27 publishers.

3. Did he have children himself?

No. He was not particularly fond of spending time with them either. His widow, Audrey, said in a recent interview that he was slightly afraid of them. She said he was always thinking: "What might they do next? What might they ask next?" She added: "He couldn't just sit down on the floor and play with them."

4. Where did he get his ideas from?

Click to see an excerpt from the Dr Seuss classic Green Eggs And Ham.

This was a question he hated being asked. His mother was one source of inspiration: she worked in a bakery and would sing him to sleep in his childhood with her "pie-selling chants".

One of his most popular books, Green Eggs and Ham, was the result of a bet that he could not write a book using only 50 words.

These are, in order of appearance: I am Sam; that; do not like; you green eggs and ham; them; would here or there; anywhere; in a house with mouse; eat box fox; car they; could; may will see tree; let me be; train on; say the dark; rain; goat; boat; so try may; if; good; thank.

5. Where did he live?

He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, where his grandparents lived on Mulberry Street - hence the title of his first book. He studied at Dartmouth College (in the US) and Oxford University (in the UK). In 1948 he and his first wife Helen bought an old observation tower in La Jolla, California, where he would shut himself away in a studio for at least eight hours a day, sometimes literally wearing a thinking cap.

6. Which are his most popular books?

The Cat in the Hat, published in 1957, and Green Eggs and Ham, published in 1960, are the two biggest sellers. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is third on the list of most popular Seuss books in the US. The tongue-twisting Fox in Socks is third in the UK. The Cat in the Hat Comes Back and the counting book One Fish Two Fish are also near the top of the table.

7. What impact did they have on children's books?

A revolutionary one. He has been credited with killing off "Dick and Jane", the sterile heroes of older children's books, replacing them with clever rhymes, plot twists and rebellious heroes who do the unexpected. The Cat in the Hat was commissioned following publication in 1955 of an influential book, Why Johnny Can't Read, which said children were being held back by boring books. An article under the same name in Life magazine called for more imaginative illustration, and named Dr Seuss as a good example of what could be done. Now one in four American children receive Dr Seuss as their first book.

8. Have the books ever been made into films?

There have been a number of animated films. More recently, a version of How the Grinch stole Christmas! starring Jim Carrey became the highest grossing film in the USA in the year 2000. A film of The Cat in the Hat, starring Mike Myers, was described by some critics as the worst film of the year in the USA in 2003, though it also did well financially. (It will be in cinemas soon in the UK.)

9. What did he think was his greatest work?

He once said it was not a book or an illustration, but the Lion Wading Pool at Wild Animal Park in San Diego, which he donated in 1973.

10. Which was his most controversial book?

The Butter Battle Book, published in 1984, about the arms race. Taking the place of the US and the USSR are the Yooks and the Zooks, who disagree on whether bread should be eaten butter-side down, or butter-side up. The story ends with a blank page, allowing readers to imagine the result of the rising tensions for themselves. The book remained on the New York Times' bestseller list for six months - for adults. The televised version of the book was shown in the USSR in 1990; Dr Seuss joked that it was after this that the country began falling apart.

What do Dr Seuss's books mean to you? Did you read them as a child? Have you read them to children as a parent or teacher?

Your comments:

Cat in the Hat! It was naughty and funny and made me wary of the Park. What's not to love? And aside from the modern films based on his books, in the 1950s Dr. Seuss wrote a wonderful movie called The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T which beats the pants off of anything made recently.
Anne B., San Francisco, USA

I am a mommy. I speak for my two.
We love Dr Seuss and his books, yes we do.

To think that one person could have such effect
On helping kids read, why you'd never expect.

I read the books too when I was a kid.
I loved them and laughed quite a lot, yes I did.

Now my boy and my girl, well they like them too.
The Cat in the Hat, Fox in Socks are just two.

I hope Dr Seuss can hear all the noise
We're making to celebrate all of the joys
He's brought to so many kids, both young and old.
We hope that his books will always be sold,
And shared, and given, and loaned out and read.
That's all now that I want to say, and it's said.
Jennifer, Temple, TX USA

I can't describe the emotion I felt when I started reading these books to my son. I am now 37 and he is 4. I have been reading Dr Seuss to him for as long as he has wanted bed time stories. My life has changed in so many ways since I was his age, yet it was like coming home reading these stories again. Ewan, our son, can read most of them along with me now.
Pieter Hounslow, Södertälje, Sweden

To put it simply, Dr. Seuss revolutionized children's literature. He kept it simple but never talked down to them. The reason why so many adults love his books is because they teach the same things to us. He stopped treating children like idiots and more like slightly different adults. This is the one thing that l good children's writers have in common.
Venkatesh T. Thattai, Ithaca, NY

You failed to mention Dr. Seus' book for adults, complete with nude drawings: The Seven Lady Godivas. It was hardly prurient, these were Seus-type drawings after all, but it was still fun.
Richard, VA, USA

Oh how I love thee, Dr. Seuss
Your words were fast, and fun and loose
I learned to eat green eggs and ham
from the most persistent Sam-I Am

I learned about Red, and Blue, and Green Fishes
and learned to hold on to my faith and my wishes
your tongue twisters raised blisters I read them so fast
you gave us a gift that forever will last
Timothy Morgan, San Juan Capistrano, United States

The first book I ever read 'all by my self' was "Hop On Pop". I'll remember it forever and hopefully be able to pass that on to my children.
Tara Martin, Tampa, USA

I think Dr. Seuss power is exemplified by the fact that intelligent adults will come on a BBC message board and write rhyming couplets about how wonderful he is.
Hasan, Canada

What can be said about Dr. Seuss?
Only that imagination was his suit.
The creative characters are still a hoot.
And the books on my shelf will never get the boot.

So I say to all of you out there.
Grab one of the books and let down your hair.
Relax under the sway of the lux-a-fruit tree.
You know, the one that only you and I can see.
Adam Pirillo, Des Moines, Iowa, USA

On my drive to school every morning as a kid we would always drive down La Jolla Scenic Drive and see Dr. Seuss walking his two dogs with a pet parrot on his shoulder! It was a great treat as a child and still a great memory I get to look back on.
Mona, La Jolla, California, USA

It was great and it was fun,
To read those books off one by one,
And then when I was getting old,
my face grown long, skin thin and cold,
I read another, I had not known,
And then my cover, it was blown!
Despite the skin and flab and grey,
My mind with Seuss adored to play.
ELG, Kinshasa, Congo

I was born with an eye defect that gave me double vision which was rectified by an operation when I was seven - by which stage I was seriously behind my class mates and developing an aversion to reading. My sister brought home a copy of The Cat in the Hat and I was hooked. In a short time I was reading by myself. I credit Dr Seuss with providing me with a lifelong love of reading.

I am a grandfather now and read the Cat books, Green eggs and all the others to my four year old grand-daughter. I'm not sure which of us enjoys them more. Thank you, Dr Seuss. Thank you, Sam-I-am.
Tony Monger, Penarth, South Wales

"Oh the Places You'll Go" in my opinion the most profound book for children and adults. I just read it to my fourth grade students, and saw hope and determination rise within them as we discussed the book. My hope is that these kids will never forget that their "mountain is waiting." Thank You Dr Seuss, for teaching me how to teach-my son Caleb and my fourth grade kids.
Jose Rafael Cantu, McAllen, Texas, USA

Around the world
In the UK
Seuss's books
Are great every day

Cat in the Hat
Or Gren Eggs and Ham
Are such good books
I am a great fan!!!
Sam and Katie, London UK

I recently sent the Yiddish edition of "The Cat in the Hat" to a little boy so that his Yiddish-speaking grandparents can read it to him, in the hopes he'll get as excited about reading Yiddish as the English version made me about reading English.
Faith, Brooklyn, USA

The fun of having two Foona Lagoona Baboona catching the contagious yawn of the story
Gwendolyn Fish, Beirut

My first and favourite book has always been Dr Seuss' sleep book. When I was a kid it was a source of unlimited pleasure, and to this day I can't recall whether I enjoyed more the intricate drawings, the absurd architecture in the illustration or the fun of having two Foona Lagoona Baboona catching the contagious yawn of the story. The book starts with "this book is to be read in bed". Dr Seuss are to be read always.
Gwendolyn Fish, Beirut, Lebanon

Dick and Jane were a total bore
Half way through you'd hear kids snore
"The Cat in the Hat" Breathed in life (*finger snap*) just like that
And books changed forever more...
Debra S. , IL, USA

We love Dr. Seuss
We would read him on a moose.
We would read him every day, if we could.
We would read him in the wood.
We have read them in the cold.
We have read him when we are old.
We have read him when we were young.
Dr. Suess is Number 1.
Jos, Ry and Beth Earle, Wadsworth, Ohio, United States

I watched as our children grew
reading problems are now few
Dr Seuss has been and gone
but not his stories, they live on
we keep him in our heads like new
and I'll never forget my Cat in the Hat tattoo!
Sara Jeffery, Bristol, England

Dr. Suess books are so great!
You can discuss them on a date.
They can be icebreakers too,
and make you laugh when you feel blue
They'll take you back to a place,
when your life was a much slower pace
And bring to your mind....
Those fun kid days that you've long left behind.
Tami , Las Vegas, NV, USA

As I am originally from the US, my first reading books were The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. Dr Seuss books were the start of my lifelong love of reading, along with I'm told a strange sense of humour! My son (who is now 22!) was given my collection as a child and had the same love of all things Seuss. He is still a big Cat in the Hat fan today. I think it says it all that the books are being handed down like the more traditional fairy tales. Long live Seuss!
Cindy, Farnborough UK

I loved Dr. Seuss when I was a child, even though some of his books actually 'freaked' me out. He was funny and thoughtful and I think he's had a positive influence on children's publishing. I lived on Mulberry Street for awhile, which today is a strange mixture of beautiful Victorian homes and low-rent housing. Although he left Springfield early, we still consider him one of our own and have built a memorial to him on our Quadrangle.
JM, Springfield, MA; USA

One summer an American friend gave me my first Dr Seuss and I was immediately hooked
Ian, London
Dr Seuss taught me to read in the 60's. School books in the UK were still about Susan and John playing with a mind-numbingly boring red ball. I had no interest in reading, what was the point?

One summer an American friend gave me my first Dr Seuss and I was immediately hooked. Whilst the stories may seem nonsensical they demand interest and encourage the recognition of patterns in words. The fantasy landscapes painted by Dr Seuss in his books delighted me and I am sure will continue to captivate children for generations.
Ian, London

As a child I found reading difficult and the "village with three corners" of state school libraries did me no favours. In desperation my folks took me to reading tutor who immediately put me on Dr Seuss. His imagination, imagery and just plain silliness appealed to me immediately. I have not stop reading since. Nearing my 30th year I am about to embark on a full-time degree course, without Dr Seuss this would have never been possible.
Alistair Mepham, Poole, Great Britain

Can't believe that the excellent "Hurtle The Turtle" doesn't even get a mention. Dr. Seuss beats Playstations/Gameboys, etc. in my eyes. Teletubbies don't even come close.
Roland, France

My son was struggling to read and we were finding it difficult motivating him. The cat-in-the-hat books were truly inspirational, they captured his imagination. Firstly I read them to him whilst he rolled around laughing. Now, when he reads them himself he chuckles away and finds it a challenge to see how fast he can read the tongue-twister sentences. The books have helped him to advance at school which has resulted in a growing confidence. Thanks to the clever Dr Seuss.
Rachel Pearson, Bradford, UK

I read them growing up and have read them to my children as well. I have nearly 14 of his books on the shelves and some are the very ones that I read - a bit worse for the wear but no less enjoyable. My favourite is The Sleep Book, the imaginative illustration lulls me and carries me away to the land of comfort and dreams. Thank You.
Shawn Kata, Strongsville, Ohio U.S.A

I love Doctor Suess books. My favourites are: 'The Sneeches', 'The Oncler' and 'Green Eggs and Ham'. I still read them at 23 and buy them for all my friends and relatives children.
Sara Catahan, Carlisle, England

Alex my son
Is only four
He reads Dr Suess
And begs for more

An early primer
Green eggs and ham
An awful rhymer
That Sam I am

Thank you Doctor
For teaching my lad
Though just starting school
His reading's not bad
C J Hendrick, Sidcup, UK

The books are timeless unlike most other books for kids or adults
Paul, UK
The books seem to be a source of disagreement between parents. Some friends hate reading them but I love the fact that they are so ridiculous that they make my five year old laugh out loud. The favourite game is to see how quickly I can read Fox in Socks without getting tongue tied. The books are timeless unlike most other books for kids or adults.
Paul, UK

My mother bought me a subscription to the Dr. Seuss books for "Beginning beginners" when I was about five and it certainly sparked a passion for books that has continued to this day. The recent films aren't that great, but I'm happy to see that they are generating more interest in Dr. Seuss books outside the US. I recently bought the Dr. Seuss' Sleep Book for friends of ours - it's the best sleep inducing book in the world! (i.e. a parent's best friend...)
Meg, Paris, France

I was weaned on Dr Seuss and I love reading his books to my little boy as well. They're brilliant rhymes with interesting characters and wacky themes, unlike the politically correct dirge aimed at five-year-olds today.
John Tracey, London

Did I read them as a child?
Yes I read them as a child.
Do you read them to your two?
Yes I read them to my two.
Are they inspired by what they hear?
They could not, would not, ask for more.
Colin Hughes, Leamington Spa, England

The Cat in the Hat is one of the earliest books I can remember reading and it became a book I frequently loaned from the local library. I still remember the actual library copy and of course the zany cartoons and humour. I was hooked then and am now, just as my kids are today although they are keener on The Cat in The Hat Comes Back.
Iain, Stavanger, Norway

My father read me "The 'B' Book" and the last line ("And that's what broke baby bird's balloon") always had me in tears. I still loved it, though, and my poor father had to read the book almost every night, knowing full well how it would all turn out. I'm now 32 years old, and my father can still move me to tears, just by saying that single line. For Christmas a few years ago, he bought me "The 'B' Book". I've moved from Canada to Hong Kong and then to Poland since receiving that gift, and left many things behind....but that book is on my bookshelf here in Warsaw. It's like carrying my childhood from continent to continent in a backpack.
Michelle, Canada/Poland

When I was young, The Lorax was one of my favourite books. I loved everything about it, the drawings, the crazy words (that somehow made sense) and the sad ending. I still prefer it to all his others. I came across some of his paintings in hotel in San Diego last year. He never meant them to be seen by anyone but they were brilliant.
John Dunsford, Woking

My dad used to read Dr Seuss books to me when I was little. Thirty years on, I remember it vividly; him reading the rhymes faster and faster and me gazing in awe at the mad Daliesque illustrations. Now that I have young children of my own, I've bought a few of the best ones ("Green Eggs and Ham", "Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are") and read them to my three year old son regularly. Our favourite is the classic "Cat in the Hat". My son never fails to giggle when the fish lands in the pot, oh he likes that, oh he likes that a lot.
Paul James, Bristol, UK

"Hop on Pop" taught my children how sounds look in print
Sue, Slidell, LA USA
"Hop on Pop" taught my children how sounds look in print. My 37 yr. old daughter, pregnant with her first, took a bunch of the Dr. Seuss books to read to her unborn child!
Sue, Slidell, LA USA

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