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Brian Jay Jones - Dr. Seuss


New York Times bestselling biographer Brian Jay Jones is known for covering iconic creative geniuses who have made indelible contributions to pop culture.


He has celebrated the lives and legacies of George Lucas, Jim Henson, Washington Irving, and Dr. Seuss for serious fans and newcomers alike.

His most recent book, Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination (Dutton, 2019), has been celebrated as “nuanced, profoundly human” (NPR), “compelling [and] sweeping in scope” (The New Yorker), and “a rich, anecdotal biography” (Kirkus).



Episode #1

Brian Jay Jones – On Becoming Dr. Seuss – Intro

New York Times bestselling biographer Brian Jay Jones discusses with us Dr. Seuss and the Jews. We delve into World War II cartoons, powerful, stunning, at Oxford, “everyone thought I was Jewish” attacking anti-Semitism, Nazi Germany, visited abandoned concentration camp while in army and more. Watch now.

Episode #2

What influenced Theodor Geisel, Dr. Seuss?

  • Lived throughout 20th century 1904 – 1992

  • Not a child prodigy, not a  gifted artist

  • Dartmouth, Oxford – not a great student

  • Future wife: “you should be drawing”

  • Humor magazines & advertising

  • Army: director Frank Capra & animator Chuck Jones

Episode #3

What was Geisel’s personality like?

  • Practical joker

  • Party goer, great host

  • Enjoyed “happy hour”

  • Serious worker, perfectionist

Episode #4

Soaring Imagination, yet meticulous?

  • Ideas coming too fast to put on paper

  • Incredible work ethic

  • Stickler for color

  • Kids deserve better

  • Meticulousness vehicle for imagination

Episode #5

Why political cartoons in the 1940’s?

  • Upset at Virginio Gayda, Mussolini propagandist

  • Hire by progressive magazine, PM

  • Went after Charles Lindbergh & America First

  • Saw no place for fascism & anti-Semitism

  • Hard hitting, graphic cartoons

Episode #6

What is your favorite Seuss book?

  • If I ran the Zoo

  • Problems aside, it’s the bounciest Seuss verse

  • And 1st time word NERD is ever used

  • Post 1957 – The Lorax

  • Butter Batter Book – scared the hell out of me

Episode #7

Why do parents love Seuss books?

  • Parents tired of reading repetitive Dick & Jane

  • Cat in the Hat, a game changer

  • Books respect the readers, kids and parents

  • Rhymes are clever, great cadence

  • Books don’t get old

Episode #8

Was the Beginners Book Project A Success?

  • Imprint with mission to get kids to read

  • Educator approved word lists

  • Seuss recruited kids’ writers & edited books

  • Partnership with Stan & Jan Berenstain – Berenstain Bears

Episode #9

 How influential was Seuss’ wife, Helen?

  • At Oxford she told him to choose a career of drawing

  • 1st and best honest editor

  • Every draft went to Helen first

  • During World War II she wrote kid books for Disney

  • Had an intuitive sense for plot

Episode #10

Banning Dr. Seuss?

  • Seuss’ step daughter’s response was the right one

  • Uneasy policing books

  • Understand where this is coming from

  • 5 of 6 were early works, before Cat In Hat

  • I Get It!

  • Seuss evolves, gets better, over time

Episode #11

 Is removing the Seuss books helpful for kids?

  • Audience is larger than just whites

  • Kids will not understand depictions

  • Asian, African American kids might look at books differently

  • Understandable response to stereotyping certain ethnic groups

Episode #12

Dr. Seuss & the Jews?

  • At Oxford, “everyone thought I was Jewish”

  • World War II cartoons, powerful, stunning

  • Attacking anti-Semitism, Nazi Germany

  • Visited abandoned concentration camp while in army

Full Interview - Brian Jay Jones

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