Although it might be tempting to bestow a kind of secular sainthood upon Dr. Seuss, the persona, Jones resists such a simplified portrayal of Geisel, the man. Becoming Dr. Seuss is more compelling than mere pop hagiography; it is sweeping in scope, unstinting in detail, and willing to criticize or contextualize when needed. One of the most affecting sections in Jones’s biography examines Geisel’s moral evolution, demonstrating how an artist could answer to his conscience independently, if imperfectly, decades before the advent of cancel culture. Jones doesn’t shy away from confronting some ugly stains from early in Geisel’s career[.]
Nuanced, profoundly human and painstakingly researched, this 496-page biography is perhaps the most complete, multidimensional look at the life of one of the most beloved authors and illustrators of our time ... While it is a standard biography in general terms, Jones goes above and beyond to contextualize Geisel in the larger picture at every moment of his life. This makes Becoming Dr. Seuss a fascinating read that discusses the origin of the humorous, simple rhymes, bizarre creatures, and magic that characterized Geisel's books while also showing the author's more radical side as an unemployed wanderer who abandoned his doctoral studies, a successful advertising man, and a political cartoonist ... Jones engages with Geisel's darker side fearlessly ... gives readers a comprehensive view of a complex, multifaceted creator who became a giant.
Credit either Geisel’s amusing personality or Jones’s breezy writing, but Becoming Dr. Seuss never feels like a slog; rather, pages fly by, acquainting readers with Geisel’s work ethic, frequent pranks and core belief that children’s books should never be condescending or overly simplistic ... What will undoubtedly satisfy Seussian scholars and casual readers alike is a portrait of his work schedule ... It’s clear that Jones is experienced in extracting details from the most innocuous letter or interview, fleshing out the lives of cultural groundbreakers we’ve long admired. As all successful biographers should do, Jones doesn’t cheerlead his own writing style by adding unnecessary flourishes or similes; he lets the subject’s actions and quotes energize the book. Thankfully, Geisel is a hilarious and insightful character whose love of literature is almost as infectious as his timeless rhymes.
Jones on the whole spends more time on Seuss’ prolific drawing than on his rhyming, a reasonable choice ... Jones’s previous biographies were of Jim Henson and George Lucas, and Geisel seems intuitively a good third to add to the trilogy, or, rather, a foundation for the others.
This biography is a long, detailed work, brimming with Geisel’s relentless creativity but, because he also wrote about himself, Geisel-the-man is on display here, too. In fact, until the last two-thirds of the book, he seems to resemble his characters—witty, charming, loyal and principled ... One of the more riveting sections of the book is a jittery description about growing up in a family of German immigrants in a small Midwest community during World War II ... Jones gets swept up in Geisel’s dazzling, indefatigable success, veering away from his more poignant personal story ... Jones’ book about Geisel is well-researched and of interest even to those not enchanted by Dr. Seuss and the hordes of characters Geisel created. Jones explores a vibrant life of aggressive creative striving, and, almost incidentally, a man more comfortable behind his fictional animals than he was dealing with his own psychic pain.
... fluid and enjoyable ... In this lively chronicle, Mr. Jones tackles the controversial elements of the Seussian oeuvre in a forthright way, setting them in the context of both the times and his subject’s own life. His is a temperate perspective that doesn’t spare Dr. Seuss the judgments of the present but that doesn’t calumniate him for failing to anticipate the demands of what was then the unknowable future.
Half hagiography, Jones’ book is unafraid to recount the Schloppity-Schlopp that marred Geisel’s long career: The racist and misogynist cartoons penned during his early years ... Beyond that, you won’t find much drama in these pages. Nor will you find deeper interpretations of Geisel’s work ... In the end, Becoming Dr. Seuss feels both like too much and too little. Still, Jones manages to craft a loving portrait of a singularly imaginative life.
... [a] thorough, thoughtful look at one of America’s best-loved children’s authors ... Jones creates an honest look at this complicated man ... a book that has been waiting to be written. It will provide a fascinating journey for adults of a certain generation who grew up and raised their children on the ever-evolving poems and pictures that sprang out of the fertile mind of Theodor 'Dr. Seuss' Geisel.
[A] massive, loving biography ... Don’t expect a lot of critical analysis, though. Jones is more interested in straight reportage ... this biography stands as a straightforward record of Geisel’s life and career.
...comprehensive and thoughtful ... Jones does not ignore problems in Geisel’s early work, including some racial stereotypes ... While acknowledging Geisel’s flaws and debts to others, Jones convincingly shows him as a transformative figure in children’s publishing ... Fans of Dr. Seuss will find much to love in this candid but admiring portrait.
Jones only winces over the occasions when Geisel succumbed to the prejudices of his time ... What this biography does best is account for Geisel’s demanding creative habits ... While Jones takes pains to discuss and reproach Geisel’s stereotyped depictions of Japanese people, he doesn’t seem to want us to dwell over this tragic incident.
A rich, anecdotal biography of one of the bestselling authors in publishing history ... Jones is particularly masterful in this vein, showing how Geisel, his wife, publisher Bennett Cerf, and other key collaborators collectively revolutionized reading education ... Though the narrative is strictly chronological, it never bogs down because the character sketches and publishing anecdotes are so well-rendered, and Jones is especially skillful with foreshadowing ... Whether readers are familiar with Dr. Seuss books or not, they will find this biography absorbing and fascinating.