Seuss’s creator, who was born March 2, 1904, corresponded with avid readers of all ages.
“Dear Dr. Seuss,” a third-grader from Oxford, Miss., writes in a frank letter to Theodor “Ted” Geisel in 1975. “I have a lot of your books, but I am 8 years old, and they are too easy. Write harder books.”
She closes on a conciliatory note, however: “My favorite book is all of them. Love, Teresa Jo Stork.”
Stork’s letter and many others can be found in Dartmouth Library’s Rauner Special Collections Library, along with replies from Geisel, whose birthday is March 2, that include comical illustrations of his characters, including the havoc-wreaking cat in the red-striped top hat.
In fact, one answer appears to have been hastily scrawled by the feline:
“Dr. Seuss is out of town,” it says. “He is visiting his Famous uncle, Dr. Theo Thomnitz in the south-eastern west part of North Dakota. They are building something called a Thnidd, and until the Thnidd is finished I am answering all of Dr. Seuss’s mail. Your letter made all of us around the house very happy. I am sending Dr. Seuss and Dr. Thomnitz your letter. It will make them both so happy, they will probably build two Thnidds instead of one. So thank you. Very, very much. (signed) The Cat in the Hat
Geisel sometimes apologizes, in zany detail, for his brevity.
“I wish I had time to write you a longer letter, but I’m awfully busy these days taking care of the animals,” he says. “This is the time of year their whiskers all have to be clipped. There are 30,000 animals in the back room alone. These 30,000 animals have 190,000 whiskers. This doesn’t even count the whiskers in the front room, so I’d better get back to work. Thank you a lot for your very interesting letter. Your friend, Dr. Seuss”
Interesting letters come not just from children, but from teenagers and adults. Mike Spaise of Long Beach Calif., is in junior high school when he invites the author to drop by when he is in the neighborhood.
“Dear Dr. Seuss, Ever since I was three years old, I have read your books. I got my first one, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish on my third birthday. I read it (or at least tried to) until the pages were torn so much that I couldn’t read all the words. The next book I received was Cat in the Hat. I was four years old at the time. The very next year I bought the book Hop on Pop. I started enjoying your books even more when I learned to read.
After evaluating all your stories, I think my favorite was the one about the pale green pants. I wish you would write more stories as I really enjoy them.”
A middle-aged rhymer fondly recalls how he used to read Dr. Seuss to his young daughter, who, after she grew up, gave him a holiday book:
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
With his devious trick
I laughed like a loon
And I’m Fifty-Six.
The Lorax, Geisel’s lament about an increasingly polluted planet, inspires the most heartfelt letters. “I felt like crying, some parts,” writes 10-year-old Carol Holland, from East Aurora, N.Y. She describes a beautiful summer cabin in Sardinia where her family spends summers, with no electricity or running water.
“It is the most unpolluted place I can think of, but what makes me sick is that soap suds come into our pond from the place we get our water from and slowly things are getting worse. By the roadside our land has pop bottles and cans littering up the beautiful scenery,” Holland writes. “I am going to start to pick up the pollution by the roadside next summer. I am doing what I can about pollution but I am very sorry I can’t do anything about the soap suds.”
Charlotte Albright can be reached at [email protected].