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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Literary Landmarks: Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture

Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture
Literary Landmarks: 5th in the Series

Written and Photographed by Jenn Buliszak

The Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden is a literary landmark installed at the Quadrangle in Springfield, Massachusetts.   Springfield is the city where Theodor Seuss Geisel grew up and the city that inspired several of his books.
Photo credit Jenn Buliszak
Ted Geisel
Theodor Seuss Geisel was born on March 2, 1904 at 22 Howard Street in Springfield, Massachusetts. Ted’s father, Theodor Robert Geisel, worked in the family-owned Liberty Brewing Company (Pease, 2010, p 14).  
His mother was Henrietta “Nettie” A. Seuss, pronounced Zoyce. She worked in her families’ bakery. The Geisels later moved to 74 Fairfield Street when Ted was four years old (Krull, 2004, p.7).

Ted Geisel had a close tie to his mother, Nettie and “recollected the language games he played with his mother as the most pleasurable of his childhood memories” (Pease, 2010, p 10).
Nettie frequently took him to The Zoo in Forest Park “and encouraged his habit of drawing caricatures of the animals on his bedroom walls. Ted’s older sister, Marnie recalled that in every room ‘on the bare plaster, was a cartoon done by Ted” (Pease, 2010, p 11). --> Geisel recalled that Nettie always cheered him on and her “refusal to allow his father to erase the doodles that Ted had drawn on his bedroom walls constituted the first adult confirmation of the value of his artwork” (Pease, 2010, p 13). 
Sharron McElmeel writes, “after graduating from Central High in Springfield, Geisel went to Dartmouth College, where he became interested in cartooning. He spent a lot of his time at the offices of the Jack-O-Lantern, a college publication. His grades were not stellar, but when his father inquired as to his plans after college, Geisel told him that he planned to go to Oxford University on a Campbell Scholarship.  There was never a scholarship, but because his dad had proudly announced the news to the local paper, they figured out a way to send Geisel to Oxford” (McElmeel, 2000, p. 179).  
Ted Geisel began using his famous pseudonym, Seuss, while at Dartmouth College.  By his senior year, Geisel had worked hard and was promoted to editor of the Jack-O-Lantern. Ted and some friends were placed on probation and he was removed “from the position of editor of the Jack-O-Lantern and barred from contributing to the periodical he’d spent four years establishing as a cutting-edge college publication”   (Pease, 2010, p 36).  
Geisel felt the probation was harsh at the time but he complied with the conditions in his own way. Geisel “removed his name from the masthead and stopped publishing materials under his given name. Within the week, however, he submitted cartoons that were published under sundry pseudonyms” including Seuss (Pease, 2010, p 37).

Later on, Geisel added the title Dr to his Seuss signature. Geisel stated through the years that he saved his real name for “the Great American Novel he intended to write”   (Pease, 2010, p 44).  
When he was asked “about the origins of his art, Geisel later named its primary source his boyhood in Springfield: ‘Why write about Never-Never Lands that you’ve never seen—when all around—you have a Real Never-Never Land that you know about and understand’ " (Pease, 2010, p 6.).  

Mulberry Street 

“It was quite by chance that Geisel began writing for children. Returning from Europe by boat in 1936, he amused himself by putting together a nonsense poem to the rhythm of the ship's engine. Later he drew pictures to illustrate the rhyme and in 1937 published the result as And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, his first children's book. Set in Geisel's hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street is the story of a boy whose imagination transforms a simple horse-drawn wagon into a marvelous and exotic parade of strange creatures and vehicles. Many critics regard it as Geisel's best work” (Contemporary Authors, 2004).   Beatrix Potter loved the book, stating, “I think it is the cleverest book I have met with for many years. The swing and merriment of the pictures, and the natural truthful simplicity of the untruthfulness”  (Pease, 2010, p 6.). 

The character, Marco, in Geisel’s tale, was changed before publication as a tribute to Mike McClintock, his publisher at Vanguard Press. Marco was McClintock's son’s name and Geisel dedicated the famous picture book to Marco’s mother Helene (Pease, 2010, p 25).
View of Mulberry Street in Springfield, Massachusetts

A drive to Mulberry Street in Springfield involves a visit to the bronze plaque dedicated to Dr Seuss and his first picture book, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street.  Mulberry Street is currently composed of both residential and commercial buildings similar to the time when Ted Geisel resided in Springfield. 

 And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, along with The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, Horton Hatches the Egg, and McElligot's Pool, introduces many of the elements for which Geisel became famous. Mulberry Street features rollicking anapestic tetrameter verse that complements the author's boisterous illustrations” (Contemporary Authors, 2004).   --> Richard HF Lindemann states, in his preface to The Dr Seuss Catalog, Geisel’s “stories, frequently use outrageous creatures and scenes to act out some simple truth, engage the reader and teach him or her about reading and about life. Geisel addresses fears and anxieties, respects childish amusements and nonsense, and validates idiosyncrasies of our individual imaginations, all without being preachy [or] condescending”(Lindemann, 2005, p. 1).
Seuss’ later books shifted focus and Selma Lanes states, “the action of all his books with children as protagonists take place either (1) in absence of grownups, or (2) in the imagination. But The Lorax, The Butter Battle Book, and Oh, the Places You’ll Go! represent an adult instructing a child on how and what to inherit from the adult’s generation”  (Pease, 2010, p. 137).   --> Geisel often wove in his strong beliefs about justice, literacy, conservation and the need for social change into his picture books and early readers.  

Ted Geisel wrote, illustrated and published children’s books for over fifty years. He passed away on September 24, 1991 (Pease, 2010, p. 152).

Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden

The Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden is located in the center of the Springfield Museums.  The project was first suggested in 1986 when the students of Springfield celebrated “Seussamania".  --> Board members of the Springfield Library and Museum Association discussed the idea of creating a monument to honor their local hometown author. After Geisel passed away “his wife, Audrey, authorized the Association to create a national memorial, and has been a major supporter throughout the project” (Dr Seuss Enterprises LP).
The sculptor, Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, knew Ted Geisel’s work very well as she is his stepdaughter.  She created the larger than life-sized bronze sculptures of Dr Seuss’s most beloved characters: the Lorax, the Grinch & Max, Yertle the Turtle, Horton, Thing 1 & Thing 2, Thidwick and Sam-I-Am.  She also created a bronze sculpture of Ted Geisel at his drawing desk. The Cat in the Hat is standing aside of Geisel and resting his paw on his shoulder. Dimond-Cates watched first hand as many of Dr. Seuss's characters were created.  The memorial garden was made possible with public funds and with financial support by Dr. Seuss's widow, Audrey Geisel and other private donors.  

In 2012, the Springfield Museums added a fun whimsical element to the Sculpture Garden.  They commissioned Patrick Dougherty to design and build a “Stickwork sculpture” to be placed behind the Lorax. The Stickwork sculpture is made entirely of saplings that were, according to signage at the site, “collected by museum staff and volunteers from managed forestry and wildlife areas in Leeds and Phillipston, Massachusetts."  The saplings were carefully woven together to create the element. Many children and adults joyfully walk throughout the amazing stickwork sculpture.  Dr Seuss would most likely approve of such an amazing sculpture as a residence for the Lorax!

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

  The American Library Association's Divisioin, the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) created the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award is 2004.  The first award was presented in 2006. The award is given annually to the author and illlustrator of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers.  The book must be published in English and is presented to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year.  A list of the past and current winners of the award is available on the ALA website ALSC page.

Additional Resources:
  • Seussville—the official home of Dr Seuss on the web—has all things Dr. Seuss.
  •  Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden at the Springfield Museums
  • Read Across America
  •  Krull, Kathleen. The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher.  New York,NY: Random House. 2004. 43 p.
  • Pascal, Janet. Who Was Dr Seuss? Illustrated by Nancy Harrison. New York: Grosset & Dunlap. 2011. 103 p.
  •  Dean, Tanya. Theodor Geisel. Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House Publishers. 2002. 111 p.
  • Lindemann, Richard H.F. The Dr. Seuss Catalog: the Annotated Guide to Works by Theodor Geisel in All Media, Writing About Him, and Appearances of Characters and Places in the Books, Stories and Films.  Jefferson, NC: McFarland; Company, Inc., Publishers. 2005. 245 p.
  • Patrick Dougherty’s stickwork sculptures may be viewed at His “Room by Room” sculpture is featured in the June/July (2013) Ranger Rick magazine.
The Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden is a fun literary landmark. If you visit, be sure to make time to also visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art that is located nearby in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Association for Library Service to Children. (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Award winners and honor books, 2006 - present | Association for Library Service to Children. Retrieved June 23, 2013 from

Association for Library Service to Children. Theodor Seuss Geisel award | Association for Library Service to Children. Retrieved June 23, 2013 from

Contemporary Authors. (2004). Gale Literary Databases: Theodor Seuss Geisel. Retrieved June 24, 2013 from Contemporary Authors Online.

Dr Seuss Enterprises LP. Dr Seuss National Memorial History. Retrieved June 25, 2013 from

Krull, Kathleen. The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher.  New York,NY: Random House. 2004. 43 p.

Lindemann, Richard H. (2005). The Dr. Seuss Catalog: the annotated guide to works by Theodor Seuss Geisel in all media, writing about him and appearances of characters and places in the books, stories and film. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.

McElmeel, Sharron. (2000). 100 Most Popular Picture Book Authors and Illustrators: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

Pease, Donald E. (2010). Theodor Seuss Geisel. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


  1. Fantastic! Congratulations on such excellent idea!

  2. It is really a wonderful garden...!!