In March of 2021, Dr. Suess Enterprises announced it would stop printing six of the old children's books in its catalog due to racist imagery within. The story became over-complicated and politicized on social media, where many commenters projected strong personal feelings onto the update. Here's a refresher on what actually happened.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced in March that it would no longer print new copies of the books 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. In a statement published by The Associated Press, a company representative said: "Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises' catalog represents and supports all communities and families... 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."
The decision sparked heated debates on social media at the time, many of which turned political fast. It also led to a broader discussion of how the publishing industry works — many incensed readers did not realize that books are rarely kept in print for this long, or that taking them out of print would not mean destroying every extant copy.
Each of the books removed from print saw a huge spike in sales, both in bookshops and on the secondhand market. Scroll down for a look at each of the books Dr. Seuss Enterprises has stopped printing, and why.
'And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street'
“And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street” (1st published in 1937) was my favorite Dr. Seuss book as a kid. I can still recite parts of it from memory. But looking at it with a modern perspective, it’s impossible to ignore the overt racial stereotypes #DrSeuss pic.twitter.com/TRLWLOdHVp— Tara Dublin Is Still Waiting For Her Big Break (@taradublinrocks) March 2, 2021
And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street was reportedly included in the list because of its depiction of an Asian person. It shows the character wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks and eating from a bowl, according to the AP.prevnext
'If I Ran the Zoo'
This page from “If I ran the Zoo” pic.twitter.com/MUk35ynECD— vivian (@FabMexLady) March 5, 2021
one of the pages of Dr. Seuss that the fight is about, worth looking at as everyone just flashes the covers (this one from “If I Ran the Zoo”): pic.twitter.com/ZuwCE1pmax— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) March 3, 2021
If I Ran the Zoo was also taken out of print for an off-handed racist image. It shows two African men wearing grass skirts, with their hair tied above their heads. It also shows a cartoonish depiction of Asian figures carrying a caged animal on top of their heads, with the caption: "I'll hunt in the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant / With helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant."prevnext
An idea. Since Dr. Seuss’s McElligot’s Pool is getting banned for having the word Eskimo in it, why don’t we just change it to Inuit? It has the same amount of syllables. I might be wrong, but it could work. pic.twitter.com/JI9M2I8BVj— InkBlot (@InkBlot57323200) March 3, 2021
McElligot's Pool was apparently included in the list because of its description of "Eskimo fish" swimming from the North Pole. The word "Eskimo" is an outdated term for several Native American groups including the Inuit, Aleut and Yupik nations. In Canada, it is considered outright offensive to those groups, and the illustrations of fish in fur-lined parkas did not help.prevnext
'On Beyond Zebra!'
On Beyond Zebra! is a wonderful book about creativity and thinking outside the box. I have no idea why it was pulled. This seems to be the only page even close to being problematic. Thoughts? pic.twitter.com/BbrJjl0Eji— Ryan Niman (@rcniman) March 6, 2021
A report by The Vancouver Sun described On Beyond Zebra! as "probably the least obvious" of the "problematic imagery" in these six books. It shows a character named "Nazzim of Bazzim" riding on a camel-like creature called a "Spazzim." While Nazzim's nationality is not stated outright, they are implied to be Middle-Eastern, and the vagueness is likely a part of the problem here.prevnext
Scrambled Eggs Super!
"Scrambled Eggs Super!" pic.twitter.com/0KexY1qGCS— Strxwmxn (@strxwmxn) March 2, 2021
Personally, I don't find the previous image offensive. Nor do I understand why Scrambled Eggs Super is being pulled, presumably only for these two images of a gentleman named Ali, who is one of the people who bravely tries to help the protagonist get some eggs: pic.twitter.com/lYUldw41Sj— Shari (aka Killian-Whump) 🍒 (@astroasis) March 2, 2021
Scrambled Eggs Super! was removed from publication for generalizations about Inuit people as well. It showed a group of people in fur-lined clothing near the Arctic, again without contextualizing their appearance.prevnext
The Cat's Quizzer
The Cat's Quizzer by Dr. Seuss pic.twitter.com/PXqCxzpOj0— Swedenborg (@Wilmographer) March 2, 2021
Finally, The Cat's Quizzer featured an illustration of a yellow-skinned person wearing a conical hat, accompanied by the caption: "How old do you have to be to be a Japanese?" The phrasing of the sentence combined with the nonsensical question are the most likely culprits for the book's place on this list.prev