Dr Seuss books face being phased out of Australian school, public and tertiary* libraries, following a decision to stop publishing six “hurtful” titles.
Dr Seuss’s 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 will no longer be published.
The move to cease printing has sparked outrage from lovers of the best-selling children’s books, but others say it is a savvy* business decision designed to keep the Dr Seuss brand alive.
Australia’s peak library body said libraries would also review the titles.
And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, the first children’s book from Dr Seuss, published in 1937, includes an illustration of a “Chinese man with sticks”, holding chopsticks and a bowl.
If I Ran The Zoo – first published in 1950 – features two barefoot men, described as African, wearing grass skirts and with their hair in knots.
“The publisher may have just hit this point but libraries would have done so some time ago, so you might find some of these Dr Seuss titles were removed a while ago,” Australian Library and Information Association chief Sue McKerracher said.
“Picture books are very carefully reviewed, to make sure that they are absolutely appropriate and are current and not in anyway racist or bigoted* or going to cause offence to the community.”
The Municipal Association of Victoria said it was not uncommon for council libraries to amend their catalogues “in keeping with community’s changing interests and needs”.
In Victoria, the education department will not order any Dr Seuss titles to be removed from state school library shelves.
Dr Seuss Enterprises, the company that protects the late author Dr Theodore Geisel’s legacy*, said the six 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’ catalogue represents and supports all communities and families,” it said.
More than 600 million copies of Dr Seuss books have been sold globally, with the popular Cat in the Hat title continuing to be printed.
Senior arts and education research fellow at Australian Catholic University, Dr Kevin Donnelly, said: “We are cancelling the innocence of childhood and the joy of parents being able to read to their children. It’s taking the fun out of the interaction between parents and their children and making it very bleak* and negative.”
But University of Melbourne academic Associate Professor Lauren Rosewarne said the decision was a reflection of “where society is at culturally”.
“This is something the company has done … this is not censorship … I think the reason they are doing it is that the books are old and they look old,” she said.
“They are trying to make their product relevant in a culture which is more savvy and sensitive to issues of racism.”
Mum Nada Sherar said her daughter Chloe loved most of Dr Seuss’ books, but that she always tried to explain the stories’ historical nature and how views had changed over time.