Virginia school district removes Dr. Seuss books for ‘racial undertones’

The sales of six Dr. Seuss books will cease over racist and insensitive imagery, according to the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy.

The news comes Thursday on National Read Across America Day, when schools across the U.S. celebrate reading on Dr. Seuss’s March 2 birthday to commemorate the popular children’s author, who died in 1991.

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

“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,” the statement continued.

A copy of the book "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," by Dr. Seuss, rests in a chair, Monday, March 1, 2021, in Walpole, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Copies of “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.

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

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A Virginia school system recently decided to discourage recognition of National Read Across America Day in light of the controversy, prompting discussion of the author and decisions to “cancel” his work on social media. The school system clarified in a Feb. 27 statement that it is not banning the author’s books.

CORAL GABLES, FL – JULY 28: Dr. Seuss’ never-before-published book, "What Pet Should I Get?" is seen on display. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Books by Dr. Seuss — born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts, on March 2, 1904 — are sold in more than 100 countries.

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The “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” author remains popular, earning an estimated $33 million before taxes in 2020, up from just $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 Black, Asian and other characters are drawn in some of his most beloved children’s books, as well as in his earlier advertising and propaganda illustrations.

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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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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