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Decision to stop publishing Dr. Seuss books spurs demand on Amazon and eBay

Theodor Seuss Geisel (Pic: Courtesy loc.gov)

One man’s meat, another man’s poison! The recent announcement that six books by the popular author and illustrator Dr. Seuss will not be published, has spurred a demand for his works. Now, Amazon.com’s bestsellers chart is filled with the author’s titles.

Dr. Seuss’ books were nine of the Top 10 books while being 30 of the Top 50. Interestingly, used copies of the six titles, whose publication has ceased now, namely, 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, were being quoted for hundreds of dollars, making a killing for the sellers!

On another online retail platform, eBay, there was a surge in the value of some of the discontinued titles. For instance, a copy of If I Ran the Zoo, which had a starting price of $48 in the morning, commanded a bid of $410 within an hour.

Reacting to the decision of Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which preserves the author’s Theodor Seuss Geisel’s legacy, to stop publishing the titles on Tuesday, the author’s birthday, one reviewer on Amazon wrote on the listing for ‘Mulberry Street’, ”I can’t tell you how angry I am that it will no longer be published!!” Another stated that there was “no racism here. Just overly PC people actively looking for something to be offended about.”

The Enterprises said that they had arrived at this decision after working with a panel of experts to review Seuss’s books and that it had concluded that the six titles portrayed people in ways that were “hurtful and wrong”. The organization, said: “Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr Seuss Enterprises’ catalogue represents and supports all communities and families.”

Published in 1937, Seuss in his first book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, carried an illustration of a Chinese man that caused controversy two years ago. This was when it was included in a mural. The other title If I Ran the Zoo, published in 1950, makes a suggestion that a “chieftain” in a turban could be kept in a zoo. It also includes a drawing of two men, described as being from Africa, wearing grass skirts and carrying exotic-looking animals.

What is noteworthy is that the author himself had revised the 1937 title ‘Mulberry Street’. He had said, “I had a gentleman with a pigtail.  I colored him yellow and called him a Chinaman. That’s the way thing were 50 years ago. In later editions I refer to him as a Chinese man. I have taken the color out of the gentleman and removed the pigtail and now he looks like an Irishman.”

The six books which were published between 1937 and 1976, have been described as “racist” as they contain numerous caricatures of Asian and Black people that incorporate stereotypes.

Over the years the imagery in the books have been courting debate. It may be recalled that in 2017, when the then First Lady Melania Trump had offered a donation of 10 Dr. Seuss books to a Cambridge, Massachusetts, school, its librarian had turned down the gift stating that its images as “racist propaganda and harmful stereotypes”. The librarian, Liz Phipps Soerio in her letter to Melania had said: “Open one of his books (‘If I Ran a Zoo’ or ‘And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street’, for example), and you’ll see the racist mockery in his art.”

Among the six the author’s most popular and famous The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and Oh, the Places You’ll Go! don’t figure.