The writer and illustrator Dr. Seuss was given a challenge by his editor in 1954, prompted by a magazine article about "Why Johnny can’t read." The Dick and Jane books were boring. Could Seuss write a fun story using just over 200 words? (That was their vocabulary list for 6- and 7-year-olds.) Seuss thought he could write it quickly.
"Seuss was used to inventing words when he needed them, so to stick to a word list was a huge challenge for him," Nel (author of The Annotated Cat by Philip Nel) says. "And, in fact, his favorite story about the creation of The Cat in the Hat is that it was born out of his frustration with the word list. He said he would come up with an idea, but then he would have no way to express that idea. So he said…: ‘I read the list three times and almost went out of my head. I said I’ll read it once more and if I can find two words that rhyme, that will be my book. I found cat and hat and I said the title will be The Cat in the Hat.’"
Seuss’ cat continued the tradition of human-like trickster animals such as Br’er Rabbit, Puss in Boots, and Bugs Bunny. These slippery characters are silly, selfish, irresponsible, foolish, sometimes mean (especially to bad-tempered characters), mischievous, and rule-breaking. Yet they’re also clever and magical. They know esoteric facts or procedures and are able to introduce a kind of healing disorder. Ultimately, they’re sympathetic figures who attack the powerful and protect the weak.
Read more (and listen) about The Cat in the Hat from NPR>>