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Arts & Culture

'Mulberry Street,' Set In Springfield, Among Discontinued Dr. Seuss Titles

Six Dr. Seuss titles — including a well-known children's book set on Mulberry Street in Springfield, Massachusetts — will no longer be published.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the company that controls Theodor Geisel's books and characters, announced Tuesday — the late author's birthday — that it will stop publishing the titles because the "books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong."

The company said the decision to cease publication and sales of certain Dr. Seuss books, including "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," follows months of deliberations. 

The other five other titles that will be permanently shelved are "If I Ran the Zoo," "McElligot's Pool," "On Beyond Zebra!," "Scrambled Eggs Super!" and "The Cat's Quizzer."

Books by Geisel — who was born in 1904 in Springfield, and died in 1991 — have been increasingly criticized for how they depict Asian and Black people.

Early in 2018, Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield replaced a controversial mural there that had depicted a scene from "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street." The mural, and Geisel's book — first published in 1937 — contained a caricature of a Chinese man.

Three well-known children's book authors — Mo Willems, Mike Curato and Lisa Yee — issued a scathing public letter about the depiction, calling it a "jarring racial stereotype ... with chopsticks, a pointed hat, and slanted slit eyes." 

The authors said that at the very least, the museum needed to "provide context for this hurtful painting." In protest of the mural, they canceled a planned appearance at a museum event.

At the time, a museum spokesperson said its leadership tried to meet with the authors about their concerns, but they declined.

"As a museum, we do not alter or edit an artist’s work," the museum said in an October 2017 statement. "We are presently exploring ways to help guide parents and teachers in addressing this issue with children and pupils."

Museum officials soon decided to replace the mural with a collection of other Seuss characters.

In a statement, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which developed the museum in partnership with the Springfield Museums, celebrated the new mural when it was unveiled in January 2018:

Dr. Seuss Enterprises, in conjunction with the Springfield Museums, is thrilled to honor Theodor Seuss Geisel’s legacy as a proud citizen of Springfield and as a children’s book author who has delighted and educated children for generations. The new mural is a celebration of Dr. Seuss’s wonderful journey starting on Mulberry Street and ending with Oh, the Places You’ll Go.

In the past, Dr. Seuss Enterprises has noted that Geisel's professional evolution was marked by "early works containing hurtful stereotypes" and later ones containing "lessons of tolerance and inclusion."

In its statement Tuesday, the business wrote, "Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families."

Springfield Museums did not return requests for comment on the decision to cease publication of the six books.

This report contains information from NPR, AP and the NEPM archives.

Jill Kaufman / NEPM

Copyright 2021 New England Public Media

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