Dr. Seuss had a unique remedy for writer’s block. When the late author, the alter ego of Theodor Seuss Geisel, was penning his beloved Beginner Books for Random House in the 1960s, he’d have his editor in chief, Michael Frith, over to his house, where they’d work until the wee hours. And when they’d get stuck, according to “Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel” by Judith and Neil Morgan, Geisel would open a secret door to a closet filled with hundreds of hats. Then, he and Frith would each pick a different hat, perhaps a fez, or a sombrero, or maybe an authentic Baroque Czech helmet or a plastic toy viking helmet with horns. They’d sit on the floor and stare at each other in these until the right words came to them.
This is a wonderful article about the new “Hats off to Dr. Seuss” exhibit. Such an amazing man who led a beautifully eccentric life even if in a very secluded manner.
Before his death in 1991, Dr. Seuss had spoken to his editor at Random House about a book he was working on. The book supposedly centered on a school and its eccentric teachers but sadly was not completed before his death. Eventually, the editor asked to see the materials he had compiled for the book which consisted of a number of sketches, scribbled down verses, and ideas. She enlisted the help of children’s author Jack Prelutsky and children’s illustrator Lane Smith to take the materials and turn Dr. Seuss’s vision into a posthumous book. The result is Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!
Dr. Seuss On Malaria: ‘This Is Ann … She Drinks Blood’
Before he cooked up green eggs or taught us to count colorful fish, Dr. Seuss was a captain in the U.S. Army. And during World War II, the author and illustrator, whose given name was Theodor Geisel, spent a few years creating training films and pamphlets for the troops.
One of Geisel’s Army cartoons was a booklet aimed at preventing malaria outbreaks among GIs by urging them to use nets and keep covered up.
In 1943, Germany blocked the Allies’ supply of the anti-malaria drug quinine. So Geisel created a booklet explaining to the troops how to avoid harmful encounters with “blood-thirsty Ann,” the character he created to represent Anopheles, the genus of the mosquitoes that transmit the disease:
“This is Ann … she drinks blood! Her full name is Anopheles Mosquito and she’s dying to meet you!
“Ann moves around at night (a real party gal) and she’s got a thirst. No whiskey, gin, beer or rum coke for Ann … she drinks G.I. blood. She jabs that beak of hers in like a drill and sucks up the juice … then the poor G.I. is going to feel awful in about eight or fourteen days … because he is going to have malaria!”
Geisel also drew a map of the malaria epidemic around the world, which was printed on the back of a poster distributed by the U.S. War Department to disseminate news to troops.
Raising Money for the Arts
In 1963, Ted Geisel donated a recent (circa 1962) painting from his La Jolla Birdwoman series to a charity auction benefiting the La Jolla Art Center. This prized artwork titled Raising Money for the Arts in La Jolla, won the top auction bid of the night, more than what was paid for a Cézanne drawing. It was the one and only time Ted offered one of his paintings for “sale.”