My favorite Dr. Seuss quote for picture book writers:
“To get four lines I’ll write 200. I’m not saying those final four lines are good, either, but they’re as good as I can make them. It’s what you leave out that makes a book good.”
"It’s an engrossing and amusing glimpse of creativity in action and the making of a children’s book classic." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Buoyantly told, rich in insights into the creative process as well as the crafts of writing, illustrating, and storytelling." --KirkusReviews (starred review)
"The book treats this task like a puzzle to be solved, which adds I-wanna-try-it language arts appeal. The illustration interweaves Seuss and Hawkes in a Who Framed Roger Rabbit? mingling of worlds; Hawkes’ cheerful, openhearted realism is a fine counterpoint to the Seussian cartoons." --Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
This book took six years from the initial idea to publication. In the fall of 2011, I was thinking about writing a picture book biography. I loved reading biographies as a child, but I had never written one myself. I didn’t want it to be a birth-to-death biography, though. I wanted to focus on one creative aspect of the life of a famous author. That author, I reasoned, should be one that young children already knew and cared about.
Why not Dr. Seuss?
I interviewed first and second graders. Nearly every one of them wanted to know where Dr. Seuss got his ideas.
Creative writers find it difficult to pinpoint the source of their ideas. Dr. Seuss, however, had been quite specific. He got his ideas, he once told an interviewer, in a town in Switzerland, Uber Gletch, where he went every year to get his cuckoo clock repaired.
Luckily for me, there was one Dr. Seuss book that did not originate in Uber Gletch. In the early 1950s, there had been a national crisis in the U.S. Kids weren't making the leap from recognizing words to reading books. Experts called on Dr. Seuss to help solve the problem by writing an irresistible book using a very limited list of words.
The creation of The Cat in the Hat featured challenges and triumphs, with a special twist at the end. Kids all across America fell in love with The Cat in the Hat, and with reading, and then Dr. Seuss accepted yet another challenge—to write an equally exciting story using only fifty different words. There was more! Dr. Seuss founded a publishing company, Beginner Books, that produced a series of whiz-bang early readers for kids. Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, changed the course of children's literature.
As I did preliminary research, I had input from my then-editor at Knopf/Random House, Janet Schulman, who worked for many years with Dr. Seuss ("Ted," as she called him), and edited one of his most iconic picture books, Oh, the Places You'll Go! My manuscript went through a few incarnations—first all in rhyme, then all in prose, finally a mixture of the two—before it was accepted for publication, and the perfect illustrator, Keven Hawkes, signed on. In his art, Kevin masterfully blends historical fact with the wild imagination of Dr. Seuss.