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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. Works by the author and illustrator have attracted criticism in recent years over their depiction of minorities.
Dr Seuss Enterprises, the company that protects and preserves the late author’s legacy, said on Tuesday, via a statement on their website explaining their decision to stop publishing these books, citing that they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” 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. These books will no longer be published. “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,” they wrote. T
The company made the decision after listening to feedback from teachers and academics, who have studied the children’s books and their potential impact on a diverse society. Books by Dr Seuss – who was born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Massachusetts on 2 March 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.
His popularity means his estate continues to earn millions of dollars each year, with Forbes listing him as the second highest-paid dead celebrity in 2020, with earnings of $33 million.
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 minorities are drawn in some of his most beloved children’s books, as well as in his earlier advertising and propaganda illustrations. However, the National Education Association, which founded Read Across America Day in 1998, has for several years de-emphasised Dr Seuss and encouraged a more diverse reading list for children in the States.
Books such as And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, the first children’s book from Dr Seuss, which was published in 1937, depicts an illustration of a “Chinese man with sticks”, who has two lines for eyes and is holding chopsticks and a bowl. Another example, If I Ran The Zoo (first published in 1950) has two men in the book, described as African men, who are wearing grass skirts, are barefoot and have their hair in knots.
In 2018, a Dr Seuss museum in his hometown 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.
The works of Dr. Seuss, born Theodore Seuss Geisel, have long been considered canon for children’s literature thanks to their playful illustrations and tongue-twisting rhymes. In recent years, however, Geisel’s work has been called out for his caricature and stereotype-ridden depictions of racial minorities, particularly Black and Asian people. Geisel has also been critiqued for his work before becoming Dr. Seuss, including drawing WWII cartoons that used racist slurs and imagery, as well as writing and producing a minstrel show in college, where he performed in blackface—a form of entertainment that some children’s literature experts point to as the inspiration for Geisel’s most famous character, the Cat in the Hat.