In 1954, Life published a screed
That was based on the thesis, "Why Johnny Can't Read."
Its author, John Henry, called primers too prim,
Lacking interest and humour and vigour and vim.
And how best to combat books so antiseptic?
With poems tetramerous and anapestic!
The leading narrator of four-metre voice
Was Theodore Geisel, a.k.a. "Doktor Zoice."
(American speakers found German abstruse
And so they had always pronounced it as Seuss.)
On a dare he composed a brief tale, quite absurd,
With a vocab of just over 200 words.
It follows a young boy and his sister Sally
As a puss in a stovepipe bounds in from the alley
And causes much mayhem and brings them dismay
While their mother is out of the house for the day.
But all's well that ends well; Cat cleans up his mess
And is gone before mother gets back. (Did you guess?)
On a morning in March, 50 years back at that,
His opus was published: The Cat in the Hat.
(And authors said, "Why didn't we think of that?")
For the yarn was so simple, so cheeky yet fun
That for legions of boomers it ranked No. 1.
(And I'd argue to this day it's not been outdone.)
The result was a wave of ecstatic reviews
As The Cat in the Hat spread like wonderful news.
"The moppets' Milton!" That was Newsweek's opinion
As Cat made its way to some far-flung dominions.
It has since been translated to Hebrew, Chinese,
Dutch, Latin, Italian, Braille and Portuguese.
And the places it's gone! There's a sequel, you know
In which 26 more cats help clean up some snow.
The Cat's been on a stamp, and on TV revealed.
There's a bronze of him in Seuss's hometown, Springfield.
(There was even a movie; that's best left concealed.)
And though Seuss himself died 16 long years ago
The Cat in the Hat still makes young readers glow
With its fish and its kites and its things and its snow.
But the only sad note, and I wish it weren't so,
Is that never another such doctor we'll know.
Today we honour the memory of the man who singlehandedly destroyed the concept of plot in literature for young children.