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Company Withdraws Dr. Seuss Children’s Books over 'Hurtful' Pictures

FILE - A copy of the book "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," by Dr. Seuss, rests in a chair, Monday, March 1, 2021, in Walpole, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Company Withdraws Dr. Seuss Children’s Books Over 'Hurtful' Pictures
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The business that oversees the work of children’s writer Dr. Seuss will stop publishing six of his books. In a statement Dr. Seuss Enterprises gave this reason: “These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”

Canceling publication of these books, the statement said, is part of a bigger plan to make sure all of Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ books and products represent and support all communities and families.

One of the books being withdrawn is “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.” In it, an Asian person is drawn wearing a pointed hat, holding chopsticks and eating from a bowl. In the book “If I Ran the Zoo” a drawing has two bare-footed African men wearing what appear to be grass skirts with their hair tied above their heads.

The other books that will no longer be published are “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!,” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.” The company said it reached the decision last year after working with a group of experts.

FILE - A plush “Cat in the Hat” toy is displayed next to “What Pet Should I Get?,” the latest book by Dr. Seuss, on Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at a bookstore in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)
FILE - A plush “Cat in the Hat” toy is displayed next to “What Pet Should I Get?,” the latest book by Dr. Seuss, on Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at a bookstore in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)

Dr. Seuss is the pen name of Theodore Seuss Geisel. He was a writer of books for children who died in 1991. However, Dr. Seuss remains very popular. The company that oversees sales of his books earned an estimated $33 million in 2020. That is up from $9.5 million five years ago. In 2020, Forbes magazine listed Dr. Seuss as its second highest-earning person who is no longer alive. The late popular music star Michael Jackson is the first.

Forbes also reported that a day after the announcement of the cancellation, nine of the top 10 books on Amazon’s best-selling charts were by Dr. Seuss. None was one of the six now-canceled books.

The National Education Association in the United States started Read Across America Day in 1998 on Geisel’s birthday. However, for the past several years, it has distanced itself from Seuss and has supported other children’s books instead.

The move to stop publication of the books quickly caused reactions on social media. Some called it another example of “cancel culture.” While others approved of the decision.

Rebekah Fitzsimmons is an assistant teaching professor at Carnegie Mellon University. She tweeted this statement: “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.”

Other popular children’s series have been criticized in recent years for being offensive to some people.

In the 2007 book, “Should We Burn Babar?” the author and educator Herbert R. Kohl wrote that the “Babar the Elephant” books celebrated colonialism.

He said this because the elephant Babar leaves the forest and later returns to “civilize” his fellow animals. One of the books, “Babar’s Travels,” was removed from the shelves of a British library in 2012 because of the way it shows Africans.

Others have criticized the “Curious George” books because the story begins with a white man bringing the monkey George out of Africa.

The writer Laura Ingalls Wilder has been criticized for how she wrote about Native Americans in her “Little House on the Prairie” books. Her books have been criticized so often that the American Library Association removed Wilder’s name in 2018 from a prize it gives out each year. The association still gives out the Geisel Award. This is a book prize for beginning readers published in the English language.

I’m Anna Matteo.

Mark Pratt reported this story for the Associated Press from Boston with contributions from Hillel Italie in New York. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.


Words in This Story

portray –v. to describe in a particular way

pen name –n. a name used by a writer instead of the writer’s real name

relate –v. to understand or have sympathy for someone or something