Six Dr Seuss books – including And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo – will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy says.
“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press in a statement that coincided with the late author and illustrator’s birthday.
“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,” it said.
The other books affected are McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer.
The decision to cease publication and sales of the books was made last year after months of discussion, the company told AP.
“Dr Seuss Enterprises listened and took feedback from our audiences including teachers, academics and specialists in the field as part of our review process. We then worked with a panel of experts, including educators, to review our catalog of titles,” it said.
Books by Dr Seuss, who was born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 2, 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.
He remains popular, earning an estimated $US33 million before taxes in 2020, up from just $US9.5 million five years ago, the company said.
Forbes listed him No. 2 on its highest-paid dead celebrities of 2020, behind only the late pop star Michael Jackson.
As adored as Dr Seuss is by millions around the world for the positive values in many of his works, including environmentalism and tolerance, there has been increasing criticism in recent years over the way blacks, Asians and others are drawn in some of his most beloved children’s books, as well as in his earlier advertising and propaganda illustrations.
The National Education Association, which founded Read Across America Day in 1998 and deliberately aligned it with Geisel’s birthday, has for several years de-emphasised Seuss and encouraged a more diverse reading list for children.
In 2017, a school librarian in Cambridge, Massachusetts, criticised a gift of 10 Seuss books from first lady Melania Trump, saying many of his works were “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes”.
The Cat in the Hat, one of Seuss’ most popular books, has received criticism, too, 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”.