Six Dr Seuss books to have publication ended over racist imagery

2 March 2021, 16:24

Dr Seuss book
Racial Injustice Dr Seuss. Picture: PA

Dr Seuss Enterprises released a statement to coincide with the late author and illustrator’s birthday.

Six Dr Seuss books will no longer be published because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves the author’s legacy has said.

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr Seuss Enterprises told the Associated Press in a statement that coincided with the late author and illustrator’s birthday.

“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.

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street
And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street is one of the six titles (Steven Senne/AP)

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

“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.

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street portrays an Asian person wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks and eating from a bowl.

If I Ran The Zoo includes a drawing of two bare-footed African men wearing what appear to be grass skirts with their hair tied above their heads.

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.

Theodor Seuss Geisel
Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr Seuss (AP)

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”.

A mural at the Amazing World of Dr Seuss Museum
A mural at the Amazing World of Dr Seuss Museum (Steven Senne/AP)

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.

Dr Seuss Enterprises said it is “committed to listening and learning and will continue to review our entire portfolio”.

The move to cease publication of the books drew immediate reaction on social media from those who called it another example of “cancel culture”.

“We’ve now got foundations book burning the authors to whom they are dedicated. Well done, everyone,” conservative commentator and author Ben Shapiro tweeted.

But Rebekah Fitzsimmons, an assistant teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon University, tweeted: “The books we share with our children matter. Books shape their world view and tell them how to relate to the people, places, and ideas around them. As grown-ups, we have to examine the worldview we are creating for our children, including carefully re-examining our favorites.”

By Press Association