During an illustrious career which saw him win multiple awards and worldwide recognition, Theodore Geisel published over 60 books, the majority of which he wrote and illustrated under the pen name Dr. Seuss. Despite his busy schedule, and just months after the release of The Cat in the Hat, Geisel set aside time to write a charming letter — a picture of which can be seen below — to a 13-year-old aspiring illustrator by the name of Howard Cruse. Cruse was delighted and wrote again two years later, and yet again Geisel replied. Such was the impact on Cruse that in 1985, 26 years later, he decided to write to the author one last time and thank him for his advice. Geisel’s illustrated reply can be seen below.
La Jolla, California
May 12, 1957
I am very sorry to have been so long in answering your very friendly letter of April 13th. But I’ve been East. And the letter’s been waiting me here in the West.
Your theatre productions sound wonderful. And I am very proud that you dedicated it to me.. and performed so many of my stories in it.
About giving you advice…pointers on how to properly write and illustrate a picture book…all I can say is this:
This is a field in which no one can give you pointers but yourself.
The big successes in this field all succeeded because they wrote and they wrote and they drew and they drew. They studied what they’d drawn and they studied what they’d written each time asking themselves one question: How can I do it better, next time?
To develop an individual style of writing and drawing, always go to yourself for criticsm. If you ask advice from too many other people, then you no longer are yourself.
The thing to do, and I am sure you will do it, is to keep up your enthusiasm! Every job is a lot of fun, no matter how much work it takes. If you’ll plug away and do exactly what you are doing, making it better and better every month and every year…that you CAN be successful.
The very best of luck to you!
(Signed, ‘Dr. Seuss’)
January 3, 1985
Theodore Geisel/Dr. Seuss
La Jolla, CA
Dear Mr. Geisel/Dr. Seuss,
If you peer at the two Xerox copies which are attached to this letter, you’ll recognize them as your gracious responses to a thirteen/fifteen-year-old Alabama boy who wrote to you in 1957 and 1959. I told you about the puppet-show adaptations of Bartholomew and the Oobleck, and McElligot’s Pool which I wrote and performed for neighborhood kids in my basement, and I confided that I hoped to grow up and write and illustrate children’s books myself. As you can see, you gave me a valuable gift: you took me seriously.
It’s been twenty-five years since the second of your two letters to me was written. During that time, I’ve often thought that I should write and thank you for the encouraging words which you offered me. On my fortieth birthday last May, I was given (at my request) The Butter Battle Book. I enjoyed seeing the world through your eyes again as much as I did when I was very young, and I appreciate your willingness to engage a truly serious and important subject within the children’s book format.
I have not illustrated any children’s books yet, but I have grown-up to be a cartoonist and humorous illustrator. My principal interest is in comic strips for adults, and I fill out my extra time doing spot drawings for magazines. My first book–a trade paperback collection of my comic strip Wendel–will be published at the end of 1985.
Although I couldn’t claim to enjoy a hundredth of your own stature as an artist, I occasionally receive letters from youngsters not unlike the letters I wrote to you. And remembering the strength of the childhood dreams which are represented by such letters, I try very hard to do as you did and treat the young artist as a person with dignity. Thanks for showing me, in your work all through the years as well as in the particular letters you wrote to me, both how to be a wonderful artist and how to be a kind and supportive human being.
It sure made me feel GOOD, reading your letter and seeing what you’ve been accomplishing during the past 25 years! It makes me especially happy to have played a small part in it.
May your first book, WENDEL, sell a billion copies. And may your next 25 years be even better than the 25 you’ve just conquered!
All the best