Simplicity Yields Complexity

Yesterday was the birthday of Theodor Geisel, AKA Dr Seuss. The following from yesterdays Writers Almanac made me think again of how simplicity yields complexity.

He went on to publish a series of fairly successful books for older children, and then, in 1955, an educational specialist asked him if he would write a book to help children learn how to read. Seuss was given a list of 300 words that most first-graders know, and he had to write the book using only those words. Seuss wasn't sure he could do it, but as he looked over the list, two words jumped out at him: "cat" and "hat."

Seuss spent the next nine months writing what would become The Cat in the Hat (1957). That book is 1,702 words long, but it uses only 220 different words. Parents and teachers immediately began using it to teach children to read, and within the first year of its publication it was selling 12,000 copies a month.

A few years later, Seuss's publisher bet him $50 that he could not write a book using only 50 different words. Seuss won the bet with his book Green Eggs and Ham (1960), which uses exactly 50 different words, and only one of those words has more than one syllable: the word "anywhere." It became the fourth best-selling children's hardcover book of all time.

In movement we should be able to do the same. Think of combining reaching, bending, pushing, pulling, running, jumping and throwing – the movement equivalent of Green Eggs and Ham.


At 3/3/08, 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Geisel was rejected from publishers some 20 plus times before his children's books came to print. He can also be admired for never giving up on his vision.

Phillip Bazzini
Tenafly, NJ


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