The business that preserves the legacy of Dr. Seuss announced on Tuesday that six books of the popular children’s author will stop being published because of their racist and insensitive imagery.
Those books are And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937), McElligot’s Pool (1947), If I Ran the Zoo (1950), Scrambled Eggs Super! (1953), On Beyond Zebra! (1955), and The Cat’s Quizzer (1976).
In a statement that coincided with the birthday of Seuss, whose real name is Theodor Seuss Geisel, Dr. Seuss Enterprises said that the abovementioned books “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” The business added that ceasing sales of these books is only part of their commitment and broader plan “to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”
Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which was founded by Seuss’ family, made the decision to stop the publication of the books last year, after months of discussion with stakeholders. As part of its review process, the company said it listened and took feedback from educators, academics, and other experts in the field before finalizing its decision.
While Dr. Seuss is admired by millions of readers across the globe for the positive values in many of his works, including environmentalism and tolerance, criticism has grown in recent years over the way Blacks, Asians and other minority groups are depicted in some of his books.
According to a study published in the journal Research on Diversity in Youth Literature in 2019, 43 out of the 45 characters of color in 50 Dr. Seuss books examined have “characteristics aligning with the definition of Orientalism” or the stereotypical, offensive portrayal of Asian people. Two of the “African” characters, meanwhile, have anti-Black characteristics.
As pointed out by the authors of the study, If I Ran the Zoo includes an example of Orientalism and White supremacy. “The three (and only three) Asian characters who are not wearing conical hats are carrying a White male on their heads in If I Ran the Zoo. The White male is not only on top of, and being carried by, these Asian characters, but he is also holding a gun, illustrating dominance. The text beneath the Asian characters describes them as ‘helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant’ from ‘countries no one can spell,’” read a portion of the study.
Meanwhile, in And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, an Asian person is portrayed wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks, and eating from a bowl. Also, a Japanese character in The Cat’s Quizzer is depicted with a bright yellow face, and is standing on what appears to be Mt. Fuji.
Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat book has also been criticized for similar reasons, but will continue to be published for now. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, however, said it is “committed to listening and learning and will continue to review our entire portfolio.”
Just hours after today’s announcement, Dr. Seuss books filled more than half of the top 20 slots on Amazon.com’s bestseller list. And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo were on the list, as well as Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990), Green Eggs and Ham (1960), and other titles that are still being published.