Much Ado About Seuss
Last week, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that it would cease the publication of six Dr. Seuss books. The decision was made last year, but the statement coincided with Dr. Seuss’ birthday last week. The six books in question are 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. According to Dr. Seuss Enterprises, “These 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’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”
As a social justice advocate, I can see how some of the images in these books could be problematic. We are looking at these images through a 21st century lens. However, we must keep in mind that Dr. Seuss was a product of his times.
As a librarian, I think it is important to keep these books for several reasons. First, Dr. Seuss is such a cultural icon of children’s literature. I grew up on his books, and so did my daughter. Generations of children have loved them and benefitted from their ability to strengthen early literacy skills. Second, these books are important to keep in the collection for historical and research purposes. They provide a snapshot into the world of children’s literature in the early to mid 20th century. The offensive images in these books also provide teachable moments. Finally, removing them from the Library’s collection would be a form of censorship, which is anathema to the Library Code of Ethics.
In closing, I feel that the positive effects of Dr. Seuss’ canon of books far outweigh the negative.