Oh, the Places You’ll Go was published by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) in 1990, roughly a year and a half before his death. This makes Oh, the Places You’ll Go the last book that the author published while he was still alive. The book reached number one on the NY Times Bestseller List for Adult Fiction and remained in the top ten for two years and more than doubled that time period on the Children’s Fiction. The book quickly became a perennial bestseller around graduation time each year as it ultimately worked its way to becoming the biggest-selling Dr. Suess book ever with more than 13 million copies having purchased by parents for their high school teens as well as their kids still in elementary school.
This wild success which has allowed Oh, the Places You’ll Go to eclipse such familiar titles as How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Lorax and Green Eggs and Ham is all the more remarkable considering that it remains one of the least critically popular picture books ever written by Seuss. While reviews greeting its initial release welcomed the first new children’s picture book by Seuss in three years, most felt that the storytelling simply did not live up to the standard set by those which came before it. Singularly pointed out for criticism is the less-than-usual amount of whimsical word play, the thinness of the central them and lack of any character development.
On the other hand, Oh, the Places You’ll Go has situated as a defining example of a rarely practiced form of fiction. The book is written (for the most part) from the second-person point of view using future tense. In other words, the reader is directly addressed as “you” and the action has yet to take place in the future rather than being a description of something which happened in the past being told in the president.
It is precisely this narrative choice which has allowed the book to become one of the most popular gifts for grads since its release. It is a tale of hope and optimism for the future in which every single reader essentially becomes the protagonist. As such, its long-term success has been based to a very substantial degree on its drifting out of the category of Children’s Books and into categories as diverse as Inspiration and Children’s Career Reference.