What makes a good children’s book?

I first became really interested in children’s books working in a library while I was in high school and junior college. I was a Page, meaning I played a small part in the workings of the public library in my hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas. My job was to check in/out, file, and straighten books in the various departments of the library. The hardest department to work in was the juvenile book section because it was an almost never-ending task of keeping the books in order on the shelves, picking up books off the floor, trying to save the books from child-handling all the while being mobbed by kids constantly rummaging through the book debris.

In spite of all the craziness, I found myself becoming familiar with the contents of the department. I perused many authors, but one author that caught my eye the most was Dr. Seuss (his real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel) and I sneaked time to read many of his books and quickly began to appreciate the beauty and substance of his work. He was special because he not only was a book writer he was also his own illustrator. Thus, he could create and illustrate whatever popped into his zany head.

His work includes several of the most popular children’s books of all time, selling over 600 million copies and being translated into more than 20 languages. Why were his books so successful for so long? In my opinion, it was because he wrote fun, non-boring books on three levels. He wrote (and illustrated) books for a child that was not yet a reader, but enjoyed being read to while they followed along with his truly unique illustrations. Second, his books were enjoyable to the same child when they could read on their own. Third, the books appealed greatly to adults because of the entertainment and moral value and they enjoyed reading them to their kids (and they bought the books). I think most successful children’s books are those that entertain adults and children alike. I think it is a bit ironic that Dr. Seuss never had any children of his own. He was apparently very happy without kids and was quoted as saying: “You have ’em; I’ll entertain ’em.”

My opinion may be an oversimplification of Dr. Seuss’ work, but he made me personally think about why children’s books are so important in spreading the fun of reading, and in teaching virtues and values to our youth. In my small way, I hope I was able to follow a part of Dr. Seuss’ principles in writing about Oscar.