The most popular children’s author of the 20th century didn’t have kids of his own. “You make ’em, and I’ll amuse ’em,” Dr. Seuss once said. And he amused ’em as well as any author who ever lived. Seuss’s books of sing-song verse and zany drawings have flourished. The website of Dr. Seuss Enterprises claims that more than half a billion copies of The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and other titles are in print. Not even death has slowed Seuss down: The majority of these books have been bought since he died in 1991. To borrow a line from The Lorax, Seuss’s success just keeps on biggering and biggering and biggering.
His books have encouraged untold numbers of children to read, but Seuss also stuffed his stories with political themes, usually liberal ones — and almost nowhere was he more aggressive about it than in the book that blasted business for all of its biggering. The Lorax was one of Seuss’s later books, coming out in 1971. The author often said that it was his favorite. On its pages, Seuss lampooned the rapacious greed of a straw-man capitalist and celebrated the environmental activism of the title character, who “speaks for the trees.” The influence of The Lorax and its leftward slant is already vast — and it only will grow when the movie adaptation arrives in theaters on March 2.