Dr Seuss books cancelled because of 'racist and insensitive imagery'

2 March 2021, 14:27 | Updated: 2 March 2021, 14:36

One of the cancelled Dr Seuss books
One of the cancelled Dr Seuss books. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

The publication of six Dr Seuss books has been cancelled because of racist and insensitive imagery contained in their pages, the organisation behind the titles confirmed today.

"These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong," Dr Seuss Enterprises said in a statement.

"Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr Seuss Enterprises' catalogue represents and supports all communities and families."

The six books are And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot's Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat's Quizzer.

The company did not offer specific examples of the controversial imagery.

The decision to cease publication and sales of the books was made last year after months of discussion, the company said.

"Dr Seuss Enterprises listened and took feedback from our audiences including teachers, academics and specialists in the field as part of our review process. We then worked with a panel of experts, including educators, to review our catalogue of titles," it said.

Books by Dr Seuss - who was born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Massachusetts on March 2 1904 - have been translated into dozens of languages as well as in braille and are sold in more than 100 countries. He died in 1991.

He remains popular, earning an estimated 33 million dollars (£23 million) before taxes in 2020, the company said. Forbes listed him second on its highest-paid dead celebrities of 2020, behind only Michael Jackson.

Dr Seuss is adored by millions around the world for the positive values in many of his works, including environmentalism and tolerance, but there has been increasing criticism in recent years over the way black people, Asians and others are drawn in some of his most beloved children's books, as well as in his earlier advertising and propaganda illustrations.

The National Education Association, which founded Read Across America Day in 1998 and deliberately aligned it with Geisel's birthday, has for several years de-emphasized Dr Seuss and encouraged a more diverse reading list for children.

School districts across the country have also moved away from Dr Seuss.

In 2017, a school librarian in Cambridge, Massachusetts, criticised a gift of 10 Dr Seuss books from first lady Melania Trump, saying many of his works were "steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures and harmful stereotypes".

In 2018, a Dr Seuss museum in his home town of Springfield removed a mural that included an Asian stereotype.

The Cat In The Hat, one of Dr Seuss's most popular books, has also received criticism but will continue to be published for now.