Did you grow up reading Dr. Seuss? If you’re like most kids in America, the answer is, “of course.” Dr. Seuss, or Theodore Geisel (his real name), is often one of the first authors that many people ever read. And his simple rhymes and whimsical illustrations have delighted children for generations. But there’s a lot about Dr. Seuss that you probably don’t know. For instance, did you know that Dr. Seuss never had kids of his own, and might not have actually liked children very much? And if you’ve ever been called a “nerd,” you can thank Dr. Seuss, who first popularized the word in one of his books.
And here’s a fact you probably didn’t know about Dr. Seuss: one of his books was definitely not intended for kids. In fact, The Seven Lady Godivas was one of the only books that Dr. Seuss wrote with adults in mind. And you can tell who the target audience was because it’s filled with drawings of naked women, all in Dr. Seuss’ signature style. And in many ways, this R-rated work actually played a major role in his later decision to focus on children’s books. So, how did a book of sexy drawings convince Seuss to write for kids? Let’s find out.
Theodore Geisel was born in 1904 in Massachusetts. Though he was always a gifted artist, he doesn’t seem to have imagined a life illustrating children’s books at first. His first work as an illustrator and writer came at Dartmouth College, where he edited the college’s humor magazine. After he and some friends were caught drinking in the dorms, he was banned from writing for the magazine. So, Geisel began secretly publishing his work in the magazine under the name “Dr. Seuss.” After leaving Dartmouth, Geisel moved to England where he had dreams of becoming a college professor.
When that didn’t work out, he returned to the U.S. and began submitting drawings to advertising agencies and drawing cartoons for newspapers. Geisel first got the chance to do something else when a publisher asked him to illustrate a children’s story collection called The Pocket Book of Boners. This book didn’t sell very well, but it did give Geisel the chance to start working on other children’s books. In 1937, Geisel wrote and illustrated hist own book called And to Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street. This book received 27 rejections before finally being published. And while this book didn’t sell well, his next two books for children did much better.
However, Seuss still wanted to write books for adults. And in 1939, he finally got the chance to publish an illustrated book for grown-ups. The way Seuss imagined it, the book was going to be a humorous – and sexy- retelling of the story of Lady Godiva. But Seuss wasn’t confident that it would sell well. He even included a drawing of a bucket of maple sap with his publisher’s name on it in the manuscript. The message was that he was a sap for publishing it. But publish it he did, and The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History’s Barest Family was born.