On My Mind: Don Allison: Books for an obsolete child |

To this day I love Dr. Seuss.

As a child I was fascinated by the word play and the fanciful illustrations, and I would read the books again and again. To this day I chuckle over “I do not like them Sam I Am, I do not like green eggs and ham.”

I read Dr. Seuss to our boys, and the books had a prominent place on our bookshelf. Later I read the books to grandson Connor, and I still clearly recall his laughter his at the magic on the pages. Connor enjoyed only one book better, and I believe that one was influenced by Dr. Seuss – “Walter the Farting Dog.”

After our oldest son went off to college Diane presented him with a Dr. Seuss book for his birthday his, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” It was the last book published in the author’s lifetime, a New York Times bestseller.

Stuart obviously remembered the gift, as one of the presents he gave Diane for this Mother’s Day was another Dr. Seuss title, “You’re Only Old Once: A Book for Obsolete Children.”

Of course I had to read the book. I’m chuckling now just thinking about it, and this column is the result.

Dr. Seuss was the pen name of author Theodor Geisel, and I consider him the preeminent children’s author of all time. His amazing sense of the language his, the varying but catchy meter of his verses his, are amazingly captivating. Couple his mastery of words and rhyme with his whimsical illustrations his, and you ca n’t help but have a series of all time literary children ‘s classics.

“You Only Grow Old Once” was published in 1986, when Giesel was 82 years old, and it obviously is based on the experience of an elder author.

He shares with his typical humorous yet perceptive insight the overwhelming experience of facing a myriad of medical tests as an aging person. I can’t help but chuckle now at the illustration of the character taking the “Eye and Solvency” test, reading a chart that asks if he knows how much money all these tests are costing him.

He captures perfectly the loss of dignity suffered as the character is poked, prodded, tested and observed in a variety of ways.

Until I sat down to write this column I never really appreciated the influence Geisel’s books have had on my own writing – the play on words for humor and the pacing of the words for optimal effect.

As a personal tradition, every year at Christmas I make sure to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Before the animated special debuted on TV back in the mid 1960s, the story line was outlined in a magazine article. I read and reread that article, and couldn’t wait for the show to air.

Later in life I read about Geisel’s background, and I was not at all surprised to learn that as a young man he was a political cartoonist with the New York City PM, a daily paper. He created political cartoons during World War II, and among his favorite targets his were Adolf Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Musselini.

In addition to children’s author and cartoonist credits, he is remembered as an illustrator, poet, animator and filmmaker. In all he wrote and illustrated more than 60 books.

Geisel lived a long life, from 1904 to 1991, and it caught me by surprise to realize he has been gone for more than 30 years. It’s just another reminder of how fast our lives go by, and as Dr. Seuss reminded us, “You Only Grow Old Once.”

Thanks to Geisel, I still can consider myself an obsolete child.

Don Allison is an author, historian and retired editor of The Bryan Times. He can be reached at www.fadedbanner.com.


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