Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss: or Why Burping Turtles Are Like LGBT Kids’ Books

Happy birthday to the good doctor, who was born Theodor Seuss Geisel on this date in 1904.

While we may not be able to celebrate quite like they do in Katroo, we can celebrate Read Across America Day, an annual “reading motivation and awareness program” run by the National Education Association (NEA).

I feel obliged to point out once again, however, that while the NEA has a chock-full Diversity Calendar, listing all kinds of celebrations and observances, the major heritage months (Black History Month, Women’s History Month, etc.), and links to resources, there is one major heritage month missing from it. In June. Three guesses. No—you’ll need just one.

In response to those who say that LGBT-inclusive books are not appropriate for children’s reading matter, I will point out that Geisel himself recalled, about his story Yertle the Turtle:

I used the word burp, and nobody had ever burped before on the pages of a children’s book. It took a decision from the president of the publishing house before my vulgar turtle was permitted to do so.

—As reported in Stefan Kanfer’s 1991 essay, “The Doctor Beloved by All,” in Of Sneetches and Whos and the Good Dr. Seuss: Essays on the Writings and Life of Theodor Geisel

Times change. Do a search for “burp” at Amazon now, and you’ll get a whole page of listings. “Fart” has about the same results. (I have a seven-year-old son. I had to check.) Let’s hope more publishers, schools, libraries, educational associations, and the like realize there’s nothing wrong with LGBT-inclusive books for children, and LGBT families are just as natural and kid-appropriate as burping turtles. Perhaps even more so—do turtles really burp?

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