Six Dr. Seuss Titles Deemed "Hurtful and Wrong" Taken Out of Print

Dr. Seuss Enterprises has announced it will cease publishing and selling six Dr. Seuss books, including And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

After years of criticism of Dr. Seuss books for racist imagery, Dr. Seuss Enterprises has announced that it will stop publishing and selling six titles that the company says "portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong." 

The company posted the following statement on its website:

"Today, on Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises celebrates reading and also our mission of supporting all children and families with messages of hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship.

"We are committed to action. To that end, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, working with a panel of experts, including educators, reviewed our catalog of titles and made the decision last year to cease publication and licensing of the following titles: And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry StreetIf I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer. These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.

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

[Read: New Study Published on Racism and Dr. Seuss]

The news predictably set off arguments across social media. Some decried "cancel culture" while others pointed out that it is, in fact, not cancel culture when the company itself makes the decision. Others inaccurately claimed the books were being banned. Librarians debated amongst themselves in Facebook groups and Twitter threads, but AASL president Kathy Carroll tweeted her unambiguous position. 

"While we review our previously canonized works, we must not let others deter us with cries of "cancel culture," but rather stick with facts and truth," tweeted Carroll. "If it walks like a duck...it may not support EDI and probably never did. Let's promote works that empower all of us. #GoodBooks"

Not everyone is looking for equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), though. Taking titles out of the Seuss catalog launched people into personal stories of reading sentimental favorites to their children, but there were also those who remember having to ad-lib when encountering racism in Seuss books as they read to their children.

"Just to put a pin in the Seuss thing, there is not a Black parent my age THAT I KNOW who hasn't had the unique experience of opening a "new" Seuss story, starting to read it, and realizing that it's TOO RACIST TO CONTINUE and changing it on the fly in front of the kids," tweeted lawyer and journalist Elie Mystal. "It didn't take me long to realize I had to PRE-READ all Seuss stories, even ones I *thought* I knew well, before actually sharing them with my kids."

[Read: Is the Cat in the Hat Racist? Read Across America Shifts Away From Dr. Seuss and Toward Diverse Books]

The decision to stop publishing these six titles may have been made last year, according to the Dr. Seuss Enterprises statement, but the date of this announcement has added impact. For decades, March 2 has been Read Across America Day in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday. A week of celebrating reading was centered around Seuss, who died in 1991. But after 20 years, the National Education Association (NEA) moved away from  Seuss in 2018 to focus on diverse and inclusive books.

At the time, NEA president Lily Eskelsen García called it "critical" that all students see themselves represented.

“During this year’s Read Across America and National Reading Month, our theme is ‘Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers,’ and we are emphasizing the importance of books that are telling children of color that they belong in the world and the world belongs to them," Eskelsen García said in a statement. "It can be a scary place out there right now for our students, but a book can transport them to a world that is safe, a world they feel they belong in, and a world in which they believe they can make a difference.”

[Read: Was the Cat in the Hat Black? by Philip Nel | SLJ Review]

This year, the NEA has themes for each month to "create and celebrate diverse readers." The theme for March is "Cultivate Compassion," and the recommended titles are Tiara's Hat Parade for elementary readers, Each Tiny Spark for middle grade, and They Called Us Enemy for YA readers. 

"There are millions of books. Millions without racist caricatures and epithets," Katie Wood commented on the SLJ Facebook page. "Give those other books a chance and put these in a museum and/or archives for those looking to preserve their "legacy"."

One Facebook follower noted that now was the time to buy these books, which have become collectors items, she said. She apparently wasn't the only one with that thought. On Amazon, where And To Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street was listed as unavailable, a third-party seller was offering a copy in "very good" condition for $10,000.

 

 

 
 

 


 

 

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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L. Aikin

How does this decision affect ALA's Library Bill of Rights and that all libraries are forums for information and ideas? Here's part of the Bill of Rights document:

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

Thank you.

Posted : Mar 02, 2021 08:49


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