AT AGE 5, Selma Levi was reading "The Cat In The Hat." And reading it and reading it and reading it. So often, she says, that her 3-year-old brother memorized it and amazed his family by seeming to read the book himself.
"I loved 'The Cat In The Hat' so much," says Levi, remembering her early affection for Dr. Seuss, who died late Tuesday at 87, leaving more than 50 books and millions of memories as his legacy.
Levi, a children's librarian, also has a special fondness for "AnTo Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street," Dr. Seuss' first children's book, published in 1937. "It was the first book of his that I came across; my mother read it to me before I discovered 'The Cat in The Hat,' " she says.
Levi holds that book dear because, as head of the children's department at the Enoch Pratt Library, she often finds herself on Baltimore's Mulberry Street, which runs just outside the Central Library's children's room. Conceding that she hasn't read the book in many years, Levi says she went looking for a copy after hearing of the author's death. All of them were checked out.
Theodor Seuss Geisel is said to have written the words of that first book to the rhythm of a ship's engine while crossing the Atlantic.
It is that rhythm, common to so many of Dr. Seuss' tales, that has charmed Nancy Patz, herself an author and illustrator of children's books. "What I like most is the rhythm, the very natural rhythm that almost matches a heartbeat," says the Baltimore author.
Patz finds Dr. Seuss' drawings and his use of bold, flat colors "so right with his words. It's an absolutely perfect match." Her favorite book is "Horton Hatches The Egg," written in 1940. "I just think it's delicious," she says.
Baltimore County librarian Audrey Norman "always likes to share 'Green Eggs and Ham' with children," she says, citing Dr. Seuss' ability "to create nonsensical characters . . . in a language they like to listen to."
Don Sakers says "Green Eggs and Ham" and "The Cat in the Hat" remain popular among young readers at the Severna Park Library. But Sakers recalls one child telling him "his parents had threatened to leave him behind at the library if he took out 'Fox in Socks' one more time." That 1965 book is full of tongue twisters and is not a favorite among grown-ups, librarian Sakers says.
Ken Jordan of Arnold has built a hobby around Dr. Seuss. Starting with books from his own childhood, the 40-year-old Jordan is building a collection of Dr. Seuss books. "The Cat In The Hat" and "If I Ran The Zoo" were among the first books Jordan says he read.
In addition to some first editions and copies of most Dr. Seuss books, Jordan, a construction worker, also has letters from the author. "I corresponded with him in the past two years," inquiring about early stories and movies that the author was involved with.
His letters were always answered, Jordan says.
And after he sent Dr. Seuss a box of candy for his birthday last March, Jordan received a note thanking him for his gift and wishing him, in return, "a million happy birthdays."