Six Dr Seuss books pulled from publication due to racist imagery

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street and On Beyond Zebra! are among the books that will no longer be published. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (NYTIMES, REUTERS) - Six Dr Seuss books will no longer be published because of their use of offensive imagery, according to the business that oversees the estate of the children's author and illustrator.

In a statement on Tuesday (March 2), Dr Seuss Enterprises said that it had decided last year to end publication and licensing of the books by Theodor Seuss Geisel. The titles include his first book writing under the pen name Dr Seuss, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street (1937), and If I Ran The Zoo (1950).

"These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong," Dr Seuss Enterprises said in the statement. The business said the decision came after working with a panel of experts, including educators, and reviewing its catalogue of titles.

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 most famous Dr Seuss titles - The Cat In The Hat and Green Eggs And Ham - were not on the list of books that will be yanked from publication. Oh, The Places You'll Go!, which often tops the New York Times bestseller list during graduation season, was also not on the list of scrapped books.

Geisel, whose whimsical stories have entertained millions of children and adults worldwide, died in 1991. His works are loved by fans for their rhymes and fantastical characters but also for their positive values, like taking responsibility for the planet.

But in recent years, critics have said some of his work was racist and presented harmful depictions of certain groups.

In And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, a character described as "a Chinaman" has lines for eyes, wears a pointed hat and carries chopsticks and a bowl of rice. (Editions published in the 1970s changed the reference from "a Chinaman" to "a Chinese man.")

If I Ran The Zoo is among the books that will no longer be published. PHOTO: REUTERS

In If I Ran The Zoo, two characters from "the African island of Yerka" are depicted as shirtless, shoeless and resembling monkeys.

A school district in Virginia said over the weekend that it had advised schools to de-emphasise Dr Seuss books on "Read Across America Day", a national literacy program that takes place each year on March 2, the anniversary of Geisel's birth.

"Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr Seuss," according to the statement by the district, Loudoun County Public Schools.

The decision to stop the publication of some Dr Seuss books helps revive a debate over classic children's titles that do not positively represent minority groups.

In France, the latest in a series of beloved comic books, Lucky Luke, features a black hero and a narrative that reimagines the role of the cowboy, drawing criticism that the book was caving to an American-inspired obsession with race.

Before he became a giant of children's literature, Geisel drew political cartoons for a New York-based newspaper, PM, from 1941 to 1943, including some that used harmful stereotypes to caricature Japanese and Japanese Americans.

Decades later, he said he was embarrassed by the cartoons, which he said were "full of snap judgments that every political cartoonist has to make".

Random House Children's Books, which publishes the Dr Seuss books said in a statement that it respected the decision of Dr Seuss Enterprises and the work of the panel that reviewed the books.

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