Dr. Seuss has become the latest target of cancel culture after the company in charge of the Suess catalogue of books decided to pull six titles from publication due to offensive imagery.
The move coincides with Dr. Seuss’s removal from “Read Across America Day,” which was observed on Tuesday. Dr. Seuss had previously been the face of the annual event for two decades.
In a statement issued Tuesday, on the author’s birthday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises said it made the decision last year to cease the publication and licensing of the six titles—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—following a review by experts and educators.
“We are committed to action,” the company said.
“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.
“Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalogue represents and supports all communities and families.”
Dr. Seuss has been criticised in recent years for having “strong racial undertones” in his books.
In 2017, Liz Phipps Soeiro, a librarian at Cambridgeport Elementary School in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, accused Dr. Seuss’s illustrations of being “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” reported News Corp.
“Open one of his books (If I Ran a Zoo or And to Think That I Saw it On Mulberry Street, for example), and you’ll see the racist mockery in his art,” Soeiro said.
However, Paul MacDonald, who owns the Children’s Bookshop in Glebe in New South Wales, Australia, said these were extremely sensitive times and a “blanket removal” of past books was a worrying trend, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Very few conversations are about the book themselves but about the politics around them,” MacDonald said.
Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel, was a lifelong liberal and often included political satire in his children’s books in which he tried to highlight freedom and imagination while criticising oppression, anti-Semitism, and even destruction of the environment.
In his 2018 proclamation, Trump encouraged Americans to “always remember the still-vibrant words of Dr. Seuss: ‘You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.’”
Several booksellers in the U.S. have no plans to remove any of Dr. Seuss titles for sale, reported the Wall Street Journal.
“We have several shelves of Dr. Seuss books and have no plans to remove them,” said Cass Moskowitz, assistant manager at the Books of Wonder bookstore in New York City.
Barnes & Noble Chief Executive James Daunt said: “I speak from a position of ignorance in terms of how insensitive the withdrawn titles were, but the core Dr. Seuss titles are enduring classics of children’s literature.”
Other children’s book removed in recent years include “Should We Burn Babar?” in Britain due to alleged stereotypes of Africans and books in the Netherlands depicting St. Nicholas’ sidekick “Black Pete.”
Isabel Van Brugen contributed to this report.