At New Museum, Dr. Seuss Himself Would Feel 'At Ease'
He's not a real doctor. His friends and family called him Ted. Since his death in 1991, Theodor Seuss Geisel has become the best-selling author of children's books in the world.
Now the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, pays homage to its favorite native son with the first-of-its-kind Seuss Museum.
A few weeks before the museum's opening, construction workers and painters put finishing touches on the space. The walls blaze with a riot of colors, including reds, blues, greens and orange.
Large murals show favorite characters. Horton the Elephant studies the Who sitting on his trunk. The Cat in the Hat balances a number of objects on his paws and tail. And rushing down the stairs with a plate of green eggs and ham is Sam-I-Am. Remember him?
The entire first floor of the new museum offers interactive displays. In the recreation of Seuss' boyhood bedroom in Springfield, children can draw on touch screens mimicking artwork done on the walls by the young Seuss and his sister Marnie.
"I tried to capture his family members, so his relationship with his sister Marnie," said artist and designer John Simpson. "And the relationship with his mother with the bakery, which is downtown here. And then with his father fishing at McElligot's Pool. I tried to show how these family experiences contributed to his imagination."
Family experiences are also highlighted on the second floor, where Seuss' two stepdaughters have installed their own personal collections, gathered while they lived with their mother and their stepdad in La Jolla, California.
Leagrey Dimond said she just about emptied out her own house in order to recreate the rooms where Seuss spent most of his time.
The Cat in the Hat helped launch a beginner book series that's still helping kids learn to read today.
Eventually versions of Seuss' books would appear on television, in feature films and on Broadway. That led to recognition from the Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys, a Pulitzer Prize -- and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Before all that success, Ted Geisel worked as an illustrator and cartoonist. During World War II, he drew some anti-Japanese cartoons. These are not currently on display -- or mentioned at all -- in the museum.
Dimond said her stepfather eventually came to regret his feelings about the Japanese.
"Of course, he evolved and changed," she said. "And I'm very careful not to put words in his mouth. But the man I knew did not have any type of racism or prejudice. We never heard that type of [prejudicial] talk ever."
But Dimond said the family did hear his opinions about social and and political issues, which he often included in his books. Seuss wrote Yertle the Turtle as an allegory about Hitler. The Lorax focuses on the environment.
Kids can read about the Lorax and some of Dr. Seuss' other famous characters in a museum exhibition space called Readingville, while their parents explore the re-created office and family room on the second floor, where Seuss lived and worked.
Dimond said her stepfather would have loved this museum.
"He would be absolutely at ease here," she sais. "And to know that he's going to be here permanently, safe, protected -- that people who want to know more are going to make the trip here to see him. It's perfect."
The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss opens this weekend at the Springfield Museums.