He was a man of many hats, both literally and figuratively. As Dr. Seuss, the prolific children’s author, he wrote 46 books for children, and as Theodor Seuss Geisel, he was an ad man and political cartoonist who collected hats, hats, and more hats – much like the title character in his 1938 classic, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.
In honor of the 75th anniversary of that title, Random House Children’s Books, which has sold 600 million Seuss books in 30 languages and 95 countries, is launching Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!, a yearlong celebration of the good doctor with a focus on some of the issues dear to his heart – children’s literacy and health, and the joy that creativity could bring them.
The commemoration includes several programs in honor of Geisel, who died in 1991 at the age of 87:
Hats Off – and On – to Seuss: On Monday, 281 people – most of them children – showed up on the steps of the main branch of the New York Public Library in a successful attempt to set the world record for the most people wearing Cat in the Hat hats. Inside, the library unveiled a display of about a dozen hats from Geisel’s own private collection, said to number in the hundreds.
Chapeau Show: Geisel began collecting hats in his 20s and was known to wear them – and insist his editors wear them – when in need of inspiration for a word or a character. The star of the show is undoubtedly the tall red-and-white-striped topper sported by the wily feline star of The Cat in the Hat (1957). The hats will be on display at the library through February 11 before traveling to a total of 16 stops – including Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Austin, Denver, Detroit, and Los Angeles – and ending up back in La Jolla, Calif., Geisel’s longtime home. In addition to the hats, the traveling show includes a number of color illustrations Geisel created for his books as well as some drawings from his personal collection.
In the Driver’s Seat: In a partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises and the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to finding a cure for pediatric cancer, Random House will donate Seuss books and Seuss-themed hats to children’s oncology hospitals in the JGCF network. To mark the partnership, Gordon, a four-time NASCAR Cup Series winner, read The Cat in the Hat to children gathered at the New York Public Library on Monday.
Showing His True Colors: For its 75th anniversary, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins has been converted to full color – the first Seuss title to get such a treatment. Originally published in black and white with flashes of red for the hats that magically appear on the title character’s head each time he removes one, the new edition, published in January, now features greens, blues, and yellows. Cathy Goldsmith, v-p and associate publishing director at Random House Children’s Books – who was the art director on Seuss’s later books –believes the new edition remains true to feel and intention of Dr. Seuss’s original.
“In my mind, if Ted had written this book later in his career, it would have been a full-color book,” she says. There are no current plans to convert any other early Seuss titles, which were limited in palette, to full color.
Goldsmith, who worked with Seuss on The Butter Battle Book (1984) and Oh, The Places You’ll Go (1990), says the yearlong celebration captures the spirit and the essence of the man, whose picture she still keeps on her desk.
“I think he would like the idea that his books had a life separate from him,” she says. “While he did appearances, he didn’t do a lot of them – he was a more private person – so I think he would have liked the idea that his art and his collections could do the speaking for him. But I think what he would especially like is the emphasis on creativity. I think that is a lesson throughout his work as a writer and as an illustrator – that you can think up quite amazing things. And I think he would love the idea that children who had his books have become parents and grandchildren.”