I Can Read It All by Myself
The Beginner Books Story
A first-of-its-kind history of Ted Geisel and the beloved children's book series he created
In the late 1950s, Ted Geisel took on the challenge of creating a book using only 250 unique first-grade words, something that aspiring readers would have both the ability and the desire to read. The result was an unlikely children’s classic, The Cat in the Hat. But Geisel didn’t stop there. Using The Cat in the Hat as a template, he teamed with Helen Geisel and Phyllis Cerf to create Beginner Books, a whole new category of readers that combined research-based literacy practices with the logical insanity of Dr. Seuss.
The books were an enormous success, giving the world such authors and illustrators as P. D. Eastman, Roy McKie, and Stan and Jan Berenstain, and beloved bestsellers such as Are You My Mother?; Go, Dog. Go!; Put Me in the Zoo; and Green Eggs and Ham.
The story of Beginner Books—and Ted Geisel’s role as “president, policymaker, and editor” of the line for thirty years—has been told briefly in various biographies of Dr. Seuss, but I Can Read It All by Myself: The Beginner Books Story presents it in full detail for the first time. Drawn from archival research and dozens of brand-new interviews, I Can Read It All by Myself explores the origins, philosophies, and operations of Beginner Books from The Cat in the Hat in 1957 to 2019’s A Skunk in My Bunk, and reveals the often-fascinating lives of the writers and illustrators who created them.
"Beginner Books finally get their literary due in this must-have for children’s book lovers, Dr. Seuss fans, publishing history buffs, or anyone who remembers that grand day when a fly went by, knows that you never feed a fish more than a spot, or has ever asked the eternal question, ‘Are you my mother?’ Those of us born in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s fell in love with books through the words and pictures of Theodor Geisel, P. D. Eastman, Roy McKie, Helen Palmer, Al Perkins, the Berenstains, Michael Frith, Eric Gurney, and Fritz Siebel, and the history of how the series came to be is as rich and colorful as the books themselves. Anecdotal stories take the reader through each era and each book, revealing a wealth of understanding of how these iconic creations came to capture the hearts and imaginations of generations of first readers. Hats off to Mr. Allen for writing a fabulous celebration of this beloved and quintessential series. Go, Dog. Go!"- Burgin Streetman, director of marketing at Trinity University Press, writer, and blogger at Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves
"Paul V. Allen does some long-overdue deep-drill research to give us—at last!—not only the smartly written story of the how and the why of the groundbreaking Beginner Books, but—just as important—also the who. While it was Dr. Seuss at the helm, Beginner Books was a team of talented creators whose work touched and defined your childhood—and maybe even taught you to read. For the first time, Allen turns the spotlight on the writers and artists who made Beginner Books a household name and a schoolroom staple, teaching generations of young readers not only how to read, but to love doing it. "- Brian Jay Jones, author of Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination
"Paul V. Allen painstakingly documents the origins, growth, and continued life of a major milestone in the modern history of childhood literacy initiatives in America, the Beginner Books line published by Random House. A valuable study with a fascinating story to tell. "- Leonard S. Marcus, author of Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children's Literature and Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom
"I Can Read It All by Myself: The Beginner Books Story is an entertaining, engaging, and interesting read for those interested in the history of children’s literature. The breezy style and anecdotes about the authors, illustrators, and publishers work to drive interest and hold the reader’s attention. "- Vikki Terrile, assistant professor at Queensborough Community College CUNY