The Future of Dr. Seuss, Shame or Fame?

Over the years, Dr. Seuss has influenced many children in their childhoods, but on March 2, the famous children’s book author became a controversial topic within the media.

According to a statement released by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, six of Dr. Seuss’ books will no longer be published or licensed due to imagery portraying people in “hurtful and wrong” ways. Currently, there is an ongoing debate amongst the public on whether the six titles are offensive.

The question is: Do we cancel Dr. Seuss? Or can we use him as a way to educate future generations?

“There’s a debate on what the response should be but there should be a response,” Philip Nel, an English professor at Kansas State University, told The Guardian.

The six books that will no longer be publishing because of racist illustrations are “If I Ran the Zoo,” “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.”

“If I Ran the Zoo,” “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “McElligot’s Pool” and “On Beyond Zebra!” are four of the six titles no longer being published by Dr. Seuss Enterprises. Photo courtesy of Christopher Dolan/The Times-Tribune via Associated Press

The discussion on whether to display the titles is even taking place in many bookstores and libraries throughout Long Island, as racism towards People of Color is ongoing.

Cancel culture today is seen in the media and used to ostracize the subject. It’s been done before by other books like “Tintin” and “Babar,” which have been, according to the New York Times, “accused of promoting colonialist and imperialist viewpoints” while also depicting non-whites as savages. Now it’s being done to Dr. Seuss’ six titles due to the insensitive content towards racial, ethnic and cultural differences.

The book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” depicts the stereotypical appearance of the Asian man by having him hold chopsticks, having yellow skin and one long strand of hair. Photo courtesy of Christopher Dolan/The Times-Tribune via Associated Press

However, some library and bookstore staff don’t see the children’s book author being cancelled, such as the owners of a local bookstore called Kew & Willow Books.

Co-owners Holly Nikodem and Vina Castillo of Kew & Willow Books know how famous Dr. Seuss is with children. “Dr. Seuss won’t be cancelled; the rest of his work is still being sold and read to kids today,” Nikodem said.

While it doesn’t seem like Dr. Seuss will be cancelled for his other children’s book titles, the six that are being discontinued are still under question, with the main concern involving children, racism and censorship. Libraries and bookstores are still deciding on whether or not to continue displaying the books.

The Henry Waldinger Memorial Library located in Valley steam, New York. Photo Courtesy of Google Maps

Henry Waldinger Memorial Library, located in Valley Steam, is still deciding if they will display the six books.

They do have a few Dr. Seuss titles, but according to the Henry Waldinger Memorial Library director, Mamie Eng said they were checked out. Eng also spoke with the Children’s Librarian but said they “didn’t have much to add to the discussion.”

“No determination has been made about the books at this point,” Eng said.

Meanwhile, Vina Castillo and Holly Nikodem have never carried the six titles but understand the issue with continuing to display them. “We are glad they are being discontinued, and it was the right decision to make,” Nikodem said. “These are books that shouldn’t be promoted or taught to children.”

Kew & Willow Books instead chooses to focus on diversifying their book selection. “When we curate our shelves, we are already trying our hardest to amplify diverse voices, anti-racist and empowering books,” Castillo said.

Another local bookstore owner is Rachel Greenbaum, who owns Blue Door Books. While she does stock a few Dr. Seuss titles, like “Cat in the Hat” and “Oh the Places We’ll Go,” none of the controversial six titles have been on her shelves.

Greenbaum said that her store contains 50% of children’s books, so she tries to be cautious. “We’re trying to find a way to not censor while also being careful of the things we are putting out there,” she said.

When talking about the controversy, Greenbaum didn’t think that Dr. Seuss was racist but did agree that children should be shielded. “We should shield our children more closely than adults,” she said. “Children are not born with prejudice.”

Greenbaum even brought up the autobiography Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler, stating that there are “bigger problems” we should be addressing in the literary world that deal with the same issues of racism. “Explain to me how Mein Kampf can be out there and Dr. Seuss’ books can’. Maybe that’s something we should look into,” she said.

Rachel Greenbaum hopes Dr. Seuss’ books could instead be a teaching moment for both the children and parents. “We can always use something negative to teach something positive.”