Dr Seuss books face being phased out of Australian school, public and tertiary ­libraries, following a decision to stop publishing six "hurtful" titles.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Australian Library and Information Association chief Sue McKerracher said libraries may already have removed the ­titles.

"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," she said.

Chloe, 6, with a popular Dr Seuss book. Picture: Jay Town
Chloe, 6, with a popular Dr Seuss book. Picture: Jay Town

 

Theodore Geisel better known as Dr. Seuss in 1985. Picture: Getty Images
Theodore Geisel better known as Dr. Seuss in 1985. Picture: Getty Images

The Municipal Association of Victoria said it was not uncommon for council ­libraries to amend their catalogues "in keeping with the community's changing interests and needs".

But the state's education department will not order any Dr Seuss titles to be removed from school library shelves.

Dr Seuss Enterprises, the company that protects the late author'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.

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's books, but that she always tried to explain the stories' historical nature and how views had changed over time.

MR POTATO HEAD

Hasbro's recent announcement it planned to rebrand its iconic toy as gender-free sparked angst among some fans. The toymaker said the name change would appear on boxes later in 2021 because the 70-year-old toy needed a modern makeover.

GONE WITH THE WIND

Last year HBO Max pulled the movie from its streaming service temporarily after the filmmaker John Ridley called out its "painful stereotypes of people of colour."

ENID BLYTON BOOKS

The late author's classic children's books, which include The Magic Faraway Tree, have been criticised over the years as elitist, sexist, racist and xenophobic.

THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE

After years of accusations of classism, sexism, racism and anti-environmentalism Thomas the Tank Engine was revamped in 2018, featuring multicultural characters and female protagonists.

mandy.squires@news.com.au

Originally published as Why Dr Seuss is being cancelled


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