Dr. Seuss' whimsical work has defined our childhoods and the childhoods of our own children. Theodor Geisel, however, had a second, more radical side. He had a successful career as an advertising man and then as a political cartoonist. From the author of Jim Henson and George Lucas comes another biography of an American icon.
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.