In my picture book, Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss wrote 'The Cat in the Hat', I include five writing tips that I distilled from Dr. Seuss’s interviews and from the recollections of his friends and family. Here’s a little more about the second tip:
Tip #2: Draw on your strengths
"The truth is that I like dogs better than cats, but I don't know how to draw a dog."
Dr Seuss was having fun with this interviewer, as he often did. He could draw dogs quite expertly. For example, he deftly depicted the Grinch’s dog, Max, for the book he wrote right after The Cat in the Hat.
But in real life, Dr. Seuss was a dog person, not a cat person. At the time he wrote The Cat in the Hat, he and his wife Helen owned an Irish setter.
Another strength Dr. Seuss drew upon was his ability to tell a story in rhyme. Early in his picture book career he wrote three children’s picture books in prose--The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, The King’s Stilts, and Bartholomew and the Oobleck. But beginning with If I Ran the Zoo (1950), he wrote all his books in rhyme.
When writing The Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss had to use his rhyming skills in a new way, because he was not allowed to make up long, silly words. He had to use simple words from a first grade list. He lamented that writing The Cat in the Hat was like making apple strudel (a delicious pastry) without the strudels. Dr. Seuss was making a joke: strudels weren’t really a part of apple strudel. Strudel was the German word for ‘waterfall’, which described what the pastry looked like, not what it was made of (Dr. Seuss, who grew up speaking German at home, knew this very well).
I am an author and folklorist based in Portland, Oregon.
The Great Dictionary Caper, illustrated by Eric Comstock (Paula Wiseman Books, Simon & Schuster, 2018)
**Starred reviews from Publishers' Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist.
Wild About Books, illustrated by Marc Brown. (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2004). New York Times Bestseller, ALA Notable Book, and winner of the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award.
Imagine That! How Dr. Seuss Wrote 'The Cat in the Hat"
(Random House, 2017). Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.
*Starred reviews from Publishers' Weekly and Kirkus.