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Dr. Seuss books roar to top of Amazon’s bestseller lists

By Tim Darnell, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Troy Warren for Hometown Hall #picks-all

 

The six Dr. Seuss books whose publisher announced this week would be canceled over alleged racial insensitivity quickly sold out on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Now other Dr. Seuss titles are occupying nine of Amazon’s top 10 bestselling books.

“The Cat in the Hat” is No. 1, according to CNN, followed by “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” None of the discontinued books are on Amazon’s list, after surging on internet auction sites earlier this week.

The titles were seeing a huge markup in prices and demand on several internet bidding sites, with some of the banned titles selling for more than $500. “EBay is currently sweeping our marketplace to remove these items,” a spokeswoman for the company told The Wall Street Journal in an email.

On Tuesday — what would have been Theodor Seuss Geisel’s (aka Dr. Seuss) 117th birthday, which has also been christened as Read Across America Day — Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced it would stop publishing six of the beloved children’s author’s books due to insensitive, racist imagery.

The canceled titles 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.”

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press. “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,” it said.

The decision to cease publication and sales of the books was made last year after months of discussion, the company told the AP.

“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 Geisel have been translated into dozens of languages as well as in braille and are sold in more than 100 countries. He died in 1991.

He remains popular, earning an estimated $33 million before taxes in 2020, up from $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, there has been increasing criticism in recent years over 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 National Education Association, which founded Read Across America Day in 1998 and deliberately aligned it with Geisel’s birthday, has for several years deemphasized Seuss and encouraged a more diverse reading list for children.

School districts across the country have also moved away from Dr. Seuss, prompting Loudoun County, Virginia, schools just outside Washington, D.C., to douse rumors last month that they were banning the books entirely.

“Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss,” the school district said in a statement.

In 2017, a school librarian in Cambridge, Massachusetts, criticized a gift of 10 Seuss books from first lady Melania Trump, saying many of his works were “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes.”

In 2018, a Dr. Seuss museum in his hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts, removed a mural that included an Asian stereotype.

“The Cat in the Hat,” one of Seuss’ most popular books, has received criticism, too, but will continue to be published for now. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, however, said it is “committed to listening and learning and will continue to review our entire portfolio.”

Numerous other popular children’s series have been criticized in recent years for alleged racism.

In the 2007 book, “Should We Burn Babar?” the author and educator Herbert R. Kohl contended that the “Babar the Elephant” books were celebrations of colonialism because of how the title character leaves the jungle and later returns to “civilize” his fellow animals.

One of the books, “Babar’s Travels,” was removed from the shelves of a British library in 2012 because of its alleged stereotypes of Africans. Critics also have faulted the “Curious George” books for their premise of a white man bringing home a monkey from Africa.

And Laura Ingalls Wilder’s portrayals of Native Americans in her “Little House On the Prairie” novels have been faulted so often that the American Library Association removed her name in 2018 from a lifetime achievement award it gives out each year.