SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — He meant what he said, and he said what he meant. And over the course of a lifetime, Theodor Geisel — much, much better known as Dr. Seuss — said quite a lot.
He wrote over 60 books, including some of the most popular children’s books of all time. By the time of his death in 1991 at the age of 87, his works had sold more than 650 million copies worldwide.
What child isn’t familiar with titles like “The Grinch That Stole Christmas” or “The Cat in the Hat”? Even older folks can tap into their memory banks and recall “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” Dr. Seuss’ first book penned back in 1937.
Born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, Dr. Seuss spent 21 years in his hometown, which was an early influence on his works. Although he lived out his latter years in La Jolla, California, it’s Springfield that now houses the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, interesting to both adults and children.
Even though the museum — as whimsical and colorful as the books Geisel wrote under his favorite pen name — opened in June 2017, a lovely sculpture garden outside preceded the building by 15 years. There, more than 30 bronze statues created by Dr. Seuss’ step-daughter, Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, dot the landscape with versions of his major literary characters, including the Lorax, Horton, the Grinch and the Cat in the Hat. There’s also one of Dr. Seuss himself.
According to Kay Simpson, president of the Springfield Museums, many of the millions who visited the garden requested the construction of a Dr. Seuss Museum. Their wishes were realized last year when the museum opened in the stately 1927 Pynchon Building, the former home of the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum.
Visitors get an early taste of the fanciful even before they step inside the building. A huge blue arch, done in appropriate Seussian colors, covers the building entryway and makes it a popular spot for a photoshoot.
Inside, people often say it’s like stepping into a Dr. Seuss children’s book. Just beyond the doorway, a comical police officer a la Mulberry Street rides atop a bike and greets visitors at the foot of the stairwell.
Rooms on the first floor highlight Seuss’ childhood. There, visitors can explore interactive exhibits that revisit a fanciful rendition of the author’s grandparents’ bakery (where they can make pretend pies), write on a facsimile of his bedroom walls (like he once did) and fish digitally in the neighborhood make-believe pond.
Along the way, you’ll also find some of Dr. Seuss’ most famous characters in life-size renditions like the Cat in the Hat and the Wump of Gump (which you can sit on). There are even some Truffula tress to add to the Seussian ambiance.
Other places encourage the playing of rhyming games, upping your children’s creativity, vocabulary, literacy and motor proficiency. Adults will probably find these areas fun as well.
There’s more on the second floor, especially for Dr. Seuss fans who can stroll through his La Jolla sitting room — reconfigured with his personal furniture — as well as his studio, stocked with his drawing desk, easel, colored pencils and the deep-red rotary phone he used to talk to his editors at Random House.
Other personal effects include family photos, letters and Theophrastus, the toy stuffed dog his mother gave him as a boy.
USA Today voted the museum one of the top visitor attractions in the country, and Southwest Airlines list it as one of 19 museums to visit in the U.S. The museum, located at 21 Edwards St., is one of five included on a campus collectively called the Springfield Museums. Admission is $25 for adults and $13 for children ages 3 to 17, which also gets you into the other four museums. For reservations, phone 800-625-7738 or go to SeussinSpringfield.org.