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Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories: A 50th-Anniversary Retrospective    by Dr. Seuss & Charles D. Cohen order for
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories
by Dr. Seuss
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2008 (1958)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This 50th anniversary edition of Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories by beloved children's author Dr. Seuss comes with an added '32 pages of commentary and archival images', written and compiled by Seuss scholar and collector Charles D. Cohen. It includes Yertle the Turtle, Gertrude McFuzz, The Big Brag, and Cohen's 50th-Anniversary Retrospective.

Unfortunately Yertle the Turtle, king of a 'nice little pond', gets ambitious: 'I'm Yertle the Turtle! Oh, marvelous me! / For I am the ruler of all that I see!' He commands an ever larger turtle-stacked throne so he can see more and more. At the very bottom, a 'plain little turtle called Mack' complains of pain and hunger, saying 'I know up on top you are seeing great sights, / But down at the bottom we, too, should have rights.' It seems only fitting that Mack's burp brings Yertle tumbling down into the mud, so that 'all the turtles are free / As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.'

Girl-bird Gertrude McFuzz, who has only one droopy-droop tail feather, is jealous of two-feathered Lolla-Lee-Lou. She seeks helps from her doctor uncle, who sends her to 'a pill-berry vine on the top of the hill.' Sadly, greedy Gertrude doesn't stop with one pill, and all the tail feathers weigh her down so much that she can't move at all! After her uncle's tail 'pulling was done, / Gertrude, behind her, again had just one ... / That one little feather she had as a starter. / But now that's enough, because now she is smarter.'

In The Big Brag, after a rabbit brags about his hearing and a bear about his sense of smell, a wise old worm makes an even bigger brag about his vision allowing him to see right around the world, where 'I saw on this hill, since my eyesight's so keen, / The two biggest fools that have ever been seen!'

In his Retrospective, Cohen tells us that 'when the top-selling children's books of all time were compiled in 2001, Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories had sold more copies than either Curious George or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.' He goes into some details on Yertle's and turtles' history with Ted Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) and accompanies them with early Geisel cartoons and international book covers. I was fascinated to learn that Yertle was 'actually a caricature of Adolf Hitler - 'a little domineering guy who pushes people around.'' Cohen also includes two lost stories - The Ruckus and The Kindly Snather - which both teach a lesson and both made me smile.

If you're a Dr. Seuss fan (and who isn't?) then you really should have this anniversary edition of Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories in your collection - to read and chortle over with young children, or simply to enjoy, and think about, on your own.

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