“Uncle August, tell me a story,” you would say. “First you have to wind up my thinking machine,” he would reply. This was the cue for you to turn the imaginary spring beside his head until he shouted “Halt, I have a story for you.” Years later—after moving to Germany, and back to America, and working as a graphic artist for The New York Times and an advertising agency—it was you who became the storyteller, through more than seventy books, in more than sixty languages, that have sold more than one hundred and thirty million copies. Along the way, you helped change the genre: introducing collages, colors, and compositions inspired by your love of artists such as Renoir, Picasso, and Klee, and by using die-cut pages that sprang to life, blurring the line between book and toy. You have been the master also of playfulness, as when one day on a whim you punched a hole through a stack of paper, which passed through your own thinking machine and emerged as the track of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. A sign of success, Emerson said, is to have won the affection of children, and perhaps no one has done that more than you. Hundreds of children write you letters each week. You have become, in a way, the world’s Opa—the grandfather onto whose lap millions of small children continue to climb in delicious anticipation of another story of simple beauty and delight.
I hereby declare you recipient of the honorary degree Doctor of Fine Arts, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining thereto.
June 5, 2016