Is this Dr. Seuss news a whole bunch of rubbish?
Six of his books will no longer be published!
The news made his books sell out in a flash
Though he’s been dead for a while, so, who gets the cash?
Ok, I’ll stop now.
You probably heard the news this week that ‘Dr. Seuss Enterprises’, working with a panel of experts and educators, decided to no longer publish SIX books from the vast Dr. Seuss (actual name Theodor Seuss Geisel) catalogue including his very first book, 1937’s “And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street”. The books were discontinued because, as the company itself describes, “they portrayed people in ways that are hurtful and wrong”. The news immediately caused debate in literary and non-literary circles and full on outrage from arguably the MOST non-literary group: American far-right Republicans (many of whom quite possibly haven’t read a book since their foreign, underpaid nannies read Dr. Seuss to them as children)
When I heard the news it threw me because the good doctor has been a staple of reading at my house from the time I was a child right up until the last time I last read my six-year-old daughter “The Lorax” just this past week (spoiler alert: It’s still relevant today. Many of our current politicians and urban developers make the young ‘Once-ler’ look like a member of Greenpeace by comparison)
How could Dr. Seuss be bad? Why was he being banned?
Well the answers are:
1) He perpetuated racist stereotypes with images in the books affected
2) He’s not being banned or ‘cancelled’. Those in charge of the late author’s publishing rights have simply decided to stop publishing those books in an effort to admit wrongdoing and provoke discussion.
And boy has discussion been provoked.
Within hours of last Tuesday’s announcement of the decision, on what was Dr. Seuss’ birthday and is now known as “Read Across America” day, not only were news agencies everywhere scrambling for thoughts from librarians (most of whom looked DELIGHTED to be asked to speak in a normal conversational voice) but right wing personalities like house minority leader Kevin McCarthy and Marco “I’m not sure what I think, what do YOU think?” Rubio were blaming the decision on left leaning Democrats and cancel culture. Which, in turn, helped to drive sales of Dr. Seuss books through the roof not only selling out the six titles affected but in fact taking up 9 out of the top 10 spots on the Amazon best seller list this past week.
Not that Dr. Seuss needed the boost.
He was the second highest paid deceased celebrity last year with $33 million in earnings in 2020 alone (if you’re wondering who was FIRST, it was Michael Jackson of course. But the issues with his legacy deserve a whole article of their own)
So essentially, by deciding not to publish half a dozen of his not top-selling books, Dr. Seuss Enterprises made all those books go out on top! As well as boosting three other titles, that they are still publishing. I’m not saying this was a marketing move, but if it was, it was a very good one.
The fact that these sales were partially fueled by the fury of right-wing freedom fighters is, well, rich. Considering that in his beginnings as a political cartoonist, he railed against right-wing propaganda and ‘America first’ policies. It’s also widely known that his book “Yertle the Turtle” was in fact a description of Hitler, forcing all the other turtles to form a tower so he could crawl over them and claim, essentially, world domination. Which Dr. Seuss was depicting as a BAD thing. But that might not be the take away for his new found fans on the right.
Overall, this decision by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, that has found its way into the American political arena, is a fitting addition to the ongoing legacy of the beloved children’s author. It acknowledges that his depictions in some of his early works were wrong and indeed hurtful for the children and adults who were taking it in. It has sparked conversation about important topics that are (sadly) still as relevant today as they were in 1937. And, against all odds, it has renewed or in some cases ignited an interest in reading books among America’s far right. Or at least it has pushed them to purchase books, generating money he doesn’t need since he died in 1991.
Now, hopefully, Dr. Seuss Enterprises will put some of this new found windfall to work. Perhaps by donating towards important progressive causes to teach children valuable lessons in equality and the right-wing types who purchased out of ‘cancel culture protest’ a valuable lesson in irony. Though I would strongly recommend they take the time to try to actually read them. There aren’t a lot of big words. And a lot of the words are just made up.