Creed Kidd, Library Director
There’s been a fair amount of buzz recently over the decision by the holding business of the Dr. Seuss books to no longer publish certain Seuss titles. Seuss Enterprises says that the titles “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”
The 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.’
The majority are not the well-known titles that Dr. Seuss is justifiably famous for. Do the books in question hold questionable images? To many minds, yes.
There are portrayals of people from various ethnic groups in stereotypical fashion: black African tribesmen and ethnic Chinese with slant-eyes and pigtails. Most of these books were originally published from the 1930s to the 1970s.
This is hardly uncommon. We remember the ‘Doctor Doolittle’ books read and enjoyed by countless children and some of the stereotypes in the wonderful Herge ‘Tintin’ graphic novels.
Publishing those stereotypes now would be justifiably a hard row to hoe now by any author. The trend over the past few years has been exploration and self-identity of members of varying ethnic and minority groups with an intent of understanding who these individuals are and the lives they lead.
For example, ‘The Luv U Give’ through ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ in print, George Takei’sThey Called us Enemy’ as a graphic novel, and ‘Moonlight’ through ‘Minari’ in film.
Certainly, the perspective has changed. In holding the Seuss books’ copyright, Seuss Enterprises has the perfect right to discontinue publishing the titles in question. However, we at the library are not running pell-mell to pull these and other ‘questionable’ titles from the shelf.
The first issue is the freedom to read. You have the right to access materials that reflect different or unpopular opinions. We tend towards materials that explain a point of view in responsible, non-inflammatory fashions that balance more mainstream views.
As an example of balance, we carry both ‘The National Review’ and ‘Mother Jones.’
You have the right to materials on controversial topics—for example, the benefits of immunization versus the deficits.
In leaving these Seuss (and other) titles on the shelf, our intent is not to scrub the past but to provide the context in understanding and explaining the past.
As a parent, your take on these books is primary. Some parents will use these titles as a springboard in explaining to their children past views on ethnic and cultural norms. Some, not. That’s your right as a citizen.
In stocking library shelves and selecting titles for use, we encourage you to exercise that right and opportunity.