A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
MARCH 2:

  • Happy birthday Leo Dillon (Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears), Anne Isaacs (Swamp Angel), Marjorie Blain Parker (A Paddling of Ducks), P. J. Lynch (The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey), Doug Keith (The Bored Book).
  • It’s the birth date of Metta Victoria Fuller Victor (1831–1885), The Bad Boy at Home and His Experiences in Trying to Become an Editor, Helen Roney Sattler (1921–1992), The Book of North American Owls, Richard Cuffari (1925-1978) The Perilous Gard.
  • In 1807, the U.S. Congress prohibits importing slaves. It will be many decades before the “peculiar institution” of slavery is abolished.
  • The film King Kong opens at Radio City Music Hall, New York City, in 1933.

On March 2, 1904, Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. Seuss won a Pulitzer Prize for lifetime contribution, one of the few children’s book creators ever so honored, and his books have sold over 200 million copies.

Like so many of our pivotal children’s book creators, Seuss struggled to get his first book published. He had submitted And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street to twenty-four to twenty-seven publishers—the number varied as he told the story over the years. During the 1930s, when picture books tended to carry serious messages, Dr. Seuss’s lighthearted nonsense went against the tide. According to the story Seuss told, he was walking down Madison Avenue, his last rejection in hand, on the way to his apartment to burn this manuscript. Then the fates intervened. Seuss ran into a Dartmouth classmate on the street and began telling his tale of woe. But the more Seuss talked, the broader the smile on his friend’s face became. Asking why the smile, Seuss learned that his friend had just been hired at Vanguard Press, a small publisher. As a new children’s book editor he needed something to publish. Besides that, his friend knew nothing about children’s books—hence he could simply enjoy Seuss’s lighthearted nonsense. Conventional wisdom in publishing, then and now, can often blind editors to something fresh and original. Seuss always said that if he had been walking down the other side of the street that day, he would have gone into the dry cleaning business!

Only the title of the book was changed (originally called A Story That No One Can Beat). In spirited rhyme Seuss tells the story of Marco, who sees a broken-down wagon, drawn by a horse, on Mulberry Street and imagines all kinds of wonderful creatures appearing in the town. When Seuss offered up this madcap nonsense to children, they fell in love with him.

Like so many of our child-friendly authors, Seuss received few adult-selected awards—but his sales and the devotion of readers more than compensated. In later years, he would write Cat in the Hat, launch the Beginner Books series for Random House, and become a household name. In Bennett Cerf of Random House, he found a dedicated editor who once said, “I’ve published any number of great writers, from William Faulkner to John O’Hara, but there’s only one genius on my author list. His name is Ted Geisel.”

If you want more information, here’s a link to a video clip at About.com. I personally always spend March 2 being grateful that Dr. Seuss didn’t end up in the dry cleaning business.

Here’s a page from And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street:

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Originally posted March 2, 2011. Updated for 2012.

Tags: Humor, Imagination
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
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COMMENTS

  1. Anita, this is my FAVORITE Seuss book!! Has been since I was a kid.
    Thanks for choosing it among the many classics he wrote.

  2. Tess W. says:

    After hearing about this book in your lecture, I went to my local library and sat on the floor of the children’s section and read it. This may actually be my favorite Dr. Seuss now! I love the liveliness of the illustrations, how he isn’t afraid to cram a lot into a single illustration but at the same time, they never seem crowded.

  3. I always enjoy stories about authors who prevail over rejection. It’s a difficult balance to know when to accept, modify, or reject editorial advice.

  4. Jude says:

    Dr. Seuss is a genius. I remember my son was struggling to learn to read in first grade. We spent the summer between first and second grades curled up on the couch reading one Dr. Seuss book after another. When he entered second grade in the fall–he had the same teacher he’d had in first grade–his teacher could not believe the progress he made. He had catapulted to the highest reading group. And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street may have been first, but our favorite Seuss story hands down is Green Eggs and Ham.

  5. Great story! I’m glad he didn’t end up a dry cleaner too :)

  6. He was brilliant!

  7. John says:

    Your essays brighten my day. Thank you for this incredible resource.

  8. My six-year-old came home from kindergarten today and asked me if I knew this book. I had to admit I haven’t read it yet! But I will look for it next time I am in the library :) Love this post….and continue to be inspired by those who have persevered over rejection!

  9. Deb Tyo says:

    I pulled And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street off the shelf and read it aloud to my sixth graders today! One is never too old for Dr. Seuss!

    I’ve said it before…I’ll say it again…I use Book-a-Day Almanac at the start of every LA class period. The students look forward to seeing it projected on the big screen. They start reading the day’s entry as soon as they set their books on their desks. There was a BIG “Oh, wow!” today when they saw it was also Leo Dillon’s birthday. I recently read Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears aloud to the students!

    Thank you!

  10. Anita says:

    Thanks to everyone who commented. And, Deb, thank you for this comment on how you use the Almanac. It made my day!

  11. Ashley Barry says:

    My nephew adores this book. He always wants me to read it to him everytime I go over his house.

    I was always struck by the loud and jumpy illustrations. There reason why I say jumpy is because of the pop up-like quality to them. I think that’s partly beacuse of the vibrant colors.

    The text and illustrations have a happy, healthy marriage. I always have a blast reading this one to my nephew.

  12. I think I missed this post last year – fascinating details about the publication of Mulberry Street! Theodor Geisel was pure imaginative genius. I would have gladly lived without dry cleaning for the whole of my life then to have lived without Dr. Seuss!

  13. Sally Derby says:

    I was all of three years old when this was first published. I had three favorite books when I was a preschooler–The Story of Ferdinand, To Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street, and Tony Brice’s So Long. The first two became classics, but I think So Long was my “first favorite.” I have yet to run across anyone who remembers it, but doesn’t everyone have a favorite book that no one else paid much attention to?

    Sometimes believing that is the only thing that keeps me writing.
    Isn’t this a great site?

  14. And to think that I still don’t have a copy of this book in our home library!

    Thanks for the reminder Anita, the Almanac is like a older brother/sister that helps us find the way… :-)

    Read Aloud Dad

  15. Thank you, Anita, for this wonderful post. I read “To Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street” aloud this semester to my Children’s Lit class. All the more delightful to add this piece if info to the story. Thank you for being such a treasure trove of information! I consult your book every single week of my class.

  16. I was introduced to this book when my mother was taking a summer children’s literature course at Ole Miss when I was thirteen. It was one of many I learned to love during her class. Without my realizing it, I began a lifelong love of children’s books.

    My copy, having survived three children and a number of kindergarteners and second graders in my classes, is ready for recycling, but I can’t bear to give it and the memories up.

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