Dr Seuss: Six books withdrawn over ‘hurtful and wrong’ imagery

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image caption Dr Seuss wrote and illustrated more than 60 books including The Cat in the Hat; the six withdrawn titles – not pictured – are among his lesser known works

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

Among the six children’s titles being withdrawn are If I Ran the Zoo, Scrambled Eggs Super, McElligot’s Pool and On Beyond Zebra!

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

It said the decision was made after consulting experts and teachers.

“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,” it added.

The other books affected are And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street and The Cat’s Quizzer.

The announcement was timed to coincide with the anniversary of late American author and illustrator’s birthday.

Books by Dr Seuss – who was born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Massachusetts and died in 1991 – have been translated into numerous languages, as well as in braille, and are sold in more than 100 countries.

They’ve also been made into movies, including 2000’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey and 2012’s animated 3D film The Lorax.

But despite the books’ popularity there has been disquiet expressed over the way they portrayed non-white characters.

For example, In And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, a character described as Chinese has two lines for eyes, carries chopsticks and a bowl of rice, and wears traditional Japanese-style shoes.

Another title, If I Ran the Zoo, depicts two men from Africa as shirtless, shoeless and wearing grass skirts as they carry an exotic animal.

The National Education Association in the US, which founded Read Across America Day in 1998, has in recent years put less emphasis on Dr Seuss’s works, instead suggesting a more diverse reading list for children.

Some school districts in the US have also moved away from recommending the author. The Daily Wire reported last week that Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia had already told its teachers to “avoid connecting Read Across America Day with Dr Seuss”.

“Realising that many schools continue to celebrate Read Across America Day in partial recognition of Dr Seuss’ birthday, it is important for us to be cognizant of research that may challenge our practice in this regard,” Loudoun County Schools said.

“As we become more culturally responsive and racially conscious, all building leaders should know that in recent years there has been research revealing radical undertones in the books written and the illustrations drawn by Dr Seuss.”

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

That same year, a Dr Seuss museum in his hometown of Springfield removed a mural that included an Asian stereotype after objections from three authors, who said the depiction was racist and refused to attend a museum event in protest.

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.

Other popular children’s books have been criticised in recent years for alleged racism.

Babar’s Travels was removed from the shelves of libraries in East Sussex in the UK after complaints of racism from words used such as “savage cannibals”.

Similar complaints have led to some of Herge’s Tintin adventures being removed from libraries, or moved to the adult section.

And criticism over Laura Ingalls Wilder’s portrayal of Native Americans in her Little House On the Prairie novels led to the removal of her name from a lifetime achievement award handed out annually by the American Library Association.

 

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