One fish, two fish, redfish, bluefish, you’ll get none is some have their wish. That’s because there is a growing boycott of some of the books of Dr. Seuss, real name Theodor Geisel, for their so-called racist and hurtful imagery.
Because of this Dr. Seuss Enterprises, who maintains the beloved children’s author’s rights, said they will stop printing some of his books because of the backlash. Those include 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 portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” the company told The Associated Press. “Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families,” it said.
The company will pull those titles from shelves after listening to readers and taking the advice of scholars and specialists. Some people have complained about the negative images in his books that include clearly offensive Asian and African stereotypes. While other cartoons in the books that critics are chastising are less egregious. Some say they don’t see offensive imagery at all in those images.
This isn’t the first time people have complained about racists and hurtful images and overtones in Seuss’s works. Scholars have argued about them for years, but those discussions have gained momentum in recent years.
Pulling Those Dr. Seuss Books Has Had Mixed Reactions
Dr. Seuss Enterprises is cheered by some, but others believe it’s indicative of a larger trend. Sales of the books skyrocketed after the announcement, the AP said. Libraries also said they received more calls than normal of people trying to reserve copies.
But some experts say one of the goals is to start a conversation about what is and isn’t acceptable in children’s literature.
“It will cause people to re-evaluate the legacy of Dr. Seuss, and I think that’s a good thing,” said Philip Nel, a children’s literature scholar at Kansas State University and the author of “Dr. Seuss: American Icon.” “There are parts of his legacy one should honor, and parts of his legacy that one should not.”
But many people think removing the books misses a golden opportunity.
“I think when there is something in a book that you find offensive, what a great teaching opportunity,” Valerie Lewis, a co-owner of Hicklebee’s bookstore in San Jose, California, told The New York Times. “We all have a choice as to whether we buy it or not, but removing it kind of makes me want to shake my head.”
Removing books from shelves or admonishing authors for their poor portrayal of ethnic stereotypes sometimes decades later is nothing new. The American Library Association removed Laura Ingalls Wilder‘s name from her lifetime achievement award in 2018 because of how she portrayed Native Americans in her “Little House on the Prairie” books, The New York Times reported.