The business that preserves and protects Dr Seuss’ legacy will discontinue publishing six of the famous author’s books, which are read in schools around the world.
Dr Seuss Enterprises said on Wednesday morning (Australian time) that it would cease sales of the children’s titles because they contained racist and insensitive imagery.
The news comes on Dr Seuss’s birthday. In the US, it also marks the start of National Read Across America Day when schools celebrate reading to commemorate one of the country’s most well-known and loved authors, who died in 1991.
Copies of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo will stop publication because they “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’ catalogue represents and supports all communities and families,” Dr Seuss Enterprises said.
The other books affected are McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer.
The company said it held months of discussions before agreeing to cease both publication and sales of the books.
“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 remains popular, earning an estimated $US33 million ($A43 million) before taxes in 2020, up from just $9.5 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, criticism has risenin recent years at 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 US National Education Association, which founded Read Across America Day in 1998 and deliberately aligned it with Geisel’s birthday, has for deemphasised Dr Seuss for several years, instead encouraging a more diverse reading list for children.
In 2017, a school librarian in Cambridge, Massachusetts, criticised a gift of 10 Seuss books from then US first lady Melania Trump, saying many of his works were “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes”.
The Cat in the Hat, which is one of Dr Seuss’ most popular books, has also been criticised but will continue to be published for now.
Dr Seuss Enterprises, however, said it was “committed to listening and learning and will continue to review our entire portfolio”.