It might sound very odd to hear the words Hitler and children’s book used in the same sentence. I assure you, it’s no typo! Even more odd is the fact that this wasn’t the largest controversy of this book!
On April 12, 1958 – Dr Seuss published a book called Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (which is now available on Amazon). The book contains 3 short stories but the main story and the one that the book is mostly known for the first story “Yertle the Turtle”.
The main character in this story is Yertle the turtle who is “king of the pond”, at the beginning he has a stone as a throne and he becomes unhappy with it as it is not tall enough. He commands his subjects (which are the other turtles) to stack themselves one on top of each other so he can go on top and have a taller throne and see further and expand his kingdom.
All of the turtles below Yertle start suffering under the weight, the turtle at the bottom is named Mack and he is in the most pain and asks Yertle for a break. Yertle of course doesn’t grant this and just tells Mack to be quiet.
As the stack of turtles gets higher and higher, Yertle keeps demanding more and more turtles and wants to get taller and taller. As expected, Mack (the turtle at the bottom) is feeling more and more pain and is starting to get hungry, again asks for another break. Again, Yertle doesn’t grant this and just demands he be quiet.
Eventually night time comes and Yertle sees the moon rising in the sky. Yertle notices that the moon is higher and taller than him and gets angry. He is furious that something (the moon) “dares to be higher than Yertle the King”. Yertle demands and calls for more turtles so he can be higher than the moon. Before Yertle can fully give the order, Mack can’t take it anymore and burps and the stack of turtles falls.
Yertle falls into the water and becomes “King of the Mud”, ending his reign over the other turtles.
For years, many questioned Dr. Seuss on if Yertle represented or was a depiction of Hitler. This was frequently denied, until eventually Dr Seuss confessed that Yertle and the book “Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories” was actually based off of Hitler.
Even though many would speculate this could have been a very controversial topic, it was never disputed or questioned.
Ironically, one portion of this book was questioned and disputed and it was the burp by Mack (the bottom turtle), at the time when this book was published, the word burp was considered inappropriate and rude, this was the first time the word burp appeared in a children’s book.