Dr. Seuss — The Book That Started It All
"And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street"
Theodor Seuss Geisel is an American Icon, better known to the world as the brilliant and much-beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss. He both wrote and illustrated his first children’s book, “And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street” in 1937 and after being rejected 28 times it was finally published by Vanguard Press. It was this publication that Theodor Seuss Geisel began using his pen name, Dr. Seuss.
Mulberry Street is the name of a street in Springfield, Massachusetts not far from Dr. Seuss’ boyhood home. The memories of his happy childhood in Springfield can be seen throughout this book and many others. “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street” is filled with Springfield imagery including a look-alike Mayor Fordis Parker on the reviewing stand and police officers riding red motorcycles, the traditional color of Springfield’s famed Indian Motorcycles.
The story follows a boy named Marco, who watches the sight and sounds of people and vehicles traveling along Mulberry Street. Marco dreams up an elaborate story to tell to his father at the end of his walk, but backs down in the end, unwilling to share his fantastic tale with his father. Dr. Seuss wrote the story as a commentary about how he felt adults stifled children’s imaginations. Dr. Seuss once told an interviewer, “I think I can communicate with kids because I don’t try to communicate with kids. I treat the child as an equal”.
The main character in the book, Marco, is named after the son of Dr. Seuss’ former classmate and editor at Vanguard Press, Marshall “Mike” McClintock, and Helene McClintock, for whom the book is dedicated.
And here's what Dr. Seuss himself had to say in 1963 about the creating of "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street" -- his first children's book:
``These are the first words I ever wrote in the field of writing for children. I put them down in the bar of the M.S. Kungshold, sometime during the summer of 1936. I wrote them for only reason. I was trying to keep my mind off the storm that was going on. (the rhythm of the rudimentary refrain came from the beat of the ship's motors.) This rhythm persisted in my head for about a week after I was off the ship and, probably as psycho-therapy, I began developing the theme. It turned into my first Juvenile ...And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.
Although I knew nothing about children's books it sounded pretty good, so I decided to get it published. It was rejected by twenty-eight publishing houses before the twenty-ninth, Vanguard Press, agreed to take a chance on bringing it out. The main reason given by the other publishing houses for rejecting it was: it was too different from other children's books on the market.''
Later he would add:
``It was finally accepted when an old Dartmouth friend who had become a children's book publisher that morning bumped into me on the street. See, everything has to do with luck.''
And now you know the story behind the story.