A few years ago, a couple read all 50 of the Dr. Seuss books and selected six they felt were offensive. They contacted Dr. Seuss Enterprises, and eventually it was determined that the books were “hurtful and wrong” and the decision was made that they would no longer be published.
This is not the same as banning a book, but the results are just the same. The lifespan of a popular children’s book in a public library is not long. And once one of these books is no longer repairable, it cannot be replaced. So these books are not banned but also not available.
The earliest book of the six was published in 1937 and the last was published in 1975, and they are all drawn in the typical Dr. Seuss style which is to say, cartoons. When they were originally published, 84 to 45 years ago, they were acceptable. But because we now live in a country that thinks differently, they are not to some people.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises could have gone in another direction. It could have put a disclaimer on the front of the books stating that they were written many decades ago and that some readers might find a few illustrations offensive. Parents could then make their own decisions.
Getting rid of books because a few people are offended is a dangerous act. There will always be someone who is offended by some book. I can think of several works that could cause offense: “The Taming of the Shew” (depiction of women), “The Merchant of Venice” (anti-Semitism), “Macbeth” (unflattering portrayal of woman having a psychotic episode), “Romeo and Juliet” (14 year old in relationship with older boy, adolescent suicide), the “Harry Potter” series (non-supportive portrayal of Lord Voldemort who was of mixed race, muggle/human, and had a very deprived childhood), the Bible (violence, never-ending wars, labelling of individuals with a disease as “unclean,” unfavorable depiction of women, teenage pregnancy, torture, I could go on and on). How many of these would you ban?
If you are offended by a book, do not buy it, do not read it and respect others’ right to do the same. And if you care about books and don’t want to be told what to read, leave a note on Dr. Seuss Enterprise’s Facebook page titled Dr. Seuss or write to CEO Susan Brandt directly at Dr. Seuss Enterprises, 1200 Prospect St., La Jolla, CA 92037. We cannot lose our right to choose what we want to read.
Katherine E. Robertson