Dr. Seuss Scholar Presents “Was the Cat in the Hat Black?”

Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat book was about more than silly rhymes and tongue twisters. As part of Dr.Seuss’ birthday month, the College of Charleston will present Seuss Scholar Philip Nel for a presentation on “Was the Cat in the Hat Black? Seuss and Race in the 1950s.” The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held on Monday, March 18, 2013 at 6 p.m. in room 235 of the Robert Scott Small Building (175 Calhoun St.). This event is part of the Department of English’s Visiting Scholar Series.

A review of Nel’s book says, “even nonacademics will come away enlightened about the talented man who wanted to wake people up to events in the world and leave a moral legacy for children.”

Nel is a scholar of children’s literature and professor of English at Kansas State University (previously he was a professor at the College of Charleston). He is author of several books on children’s literature, including Dr. Seuss: American Icon (Continuum, 2004) and, more recently, Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature (University Press of Mississippi, 2012).

According to the National Education Association, The Cat in the Hat was born in 1954 when Life Magazine published a report on illiteracy among schoolchildren, suggesting that children were having trouble reading because their books were boring. This problem inspired a publisher, prompting him to send Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, a list of 400 words he felt were important for children to learn. The publisher asked Geisel to cut the list to 250 words and use them to write an entertaining children’s book. Nine months later, Geisel, using 220 of the words given to him, published The Cat in the Hat, which brought instant success.

Now, Dr. Seuss’ birthday is celebrated with NEA’s Read Across America, is an annual reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate.

For more information, contact John Bruns at 843.953.4957 or brunsj@cofc.edu.