Monday, September 26, 2016

Banned Book: If I Ran the Zoo

Edit 3/10/2021: Wow, this post has blown up with recent news/debates about Dr. Seuss. Some of the comments are disgusting, and it repulsed me to know that these people thought I shared their closed-minded, harmful, ignorant views. 

I had completely forgotten about it, but I feel a need to update my somewhat pithy response about this book. People are allowed to grow and change, and over the years I have done more research and am working to be anti-racist, so I completely disagree with the post I wrote in 2016. I don't think it's "cancel culture" to discover that an old author's books are completely out of line in modern times. 

There is so much QUALITY, open-minded, accepting children's lit out there that Dr. Seuss does not need to be read, much less celebrated. You might argue that he's classic, but there is no need to hold on to stale old stories when fresh children's lit is being published at an amazing rate. Children will not "miss out" on anything if they don't read Dr. Seuss in their childhoods. Read them books that show people of all different skin tones being accepted, read them books that show non-traditional families, read them books that show kindness and compassion. And show them that in your own words and actions as well. Dr. Seuss is not worth fighting for.


If I Ran the Zoo is a typical silly Dr. Seuss book, if you ask me, but it's been banned for the line "all wear their eyes at a slant", which refers to the helpers, accompanied by an illustration of Asian stereotypes.

I never knew why this book was banned, and had never read it before. It was, as I mentioned, a typical Dr. Seuss book to me, but seemed a bit long. I was expecting something along the line of Green Eggs and Ham or Hop on Pop, but this one was a real time investment.

That being said, I don't think it should be banned for the stereotypes portrayed on the pages - instead, turn them into a teaching point. Talk about why it's a stereotype and why it's offensive, and depending on the age of the children, talk about other stereotypes they might know, and debunk them. We should learn from history instead of try to ban it and wish we could erase it.

9 comments:

  1. I agree, it shouldn't be banned. There's a lot of hyper-sensitivity in the world today. When these illustrations were rendered, AND the whole book is taken in context, aside from the text, the illustration is meant to amuse the reader in the same way every other illustration in every one of his "fantastical" books is meant to do. Some cultures are noted for carrying things on their heads, though more common in India, Africa and Europe than China, but cartoonists and illustrators (which Seuss was) won't always get those type details 100% right. This image was not drawn with racist intent just because Geisel had a racist bent from World War II back (as did most of America). Banning is wrong anyway :-\

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  2. Glad that this book is banned so that his descendants receive as little income as possible from his racist works. It's very easy to say "it shouldn't be banned" when you aren't the one being insulted. These images and slurs leave negative impressions on the very impressionable children they are marketed to and it's sick for someone like Theodore to plant seeds of self-hate and discrimination in kids - bigotry is taught, not innate.

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  3. Trying to amuse people with caricatured stereotypes is racist. Just because a racist joke is being told subtly in book by a beloved children's author doesn't make it ok.

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  4. Agree! These books are being taken out of context. People have to remember the era they were written in and for who they were written for. They were written in the 1930’s and 40’s and specifically for preschoolers. Young children do not see anything but a fun rhyming story with funny pictures. Only an adult looking to read more into the quirky artwork and silly story will see things that offend them because that is what they are intentionally looking for - as for words like queer - this word in the 1930’s and up until the 1960’s meant “strange or quirky” and not any type of slant against the gay community. In fact the word “gay” is a pseudonym for happy or light-hearted. Also there would undoubtedly be an over-representation of caucasion children in the books because that pretty much was the majority of market that Dr. Seuss was writing for at the time. Just like other books such as Heidi and Oliver Twist. It is the environment that the author was surrounded by at the time which inspired the books. And - please - almost all the characters are fuzzy furry non-human beings so how are they offensive when they are in fact imaginary creatures?

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  5. I agree the books shouldn't have been banned. I've been reading about Theodor Seuss Geisel, he was not a racist. Geisel and his sister Marnie experienced anti-German prejudice from other children following the outbreak of World War I in 1914. So he understood racism. He wrote four books about tolerance, diversity, and compromise. The trouble is, even those words have had their meaning changed!
    The books were "The Sneetches and Other Stories."

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  6. It hasn't been banned. The publishing company just decided not to print any new copies.

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  7. It wasn’t actually banned by anyone. The publishing company itself decided to stop publishing due to the racism stereotypes. It’s still in shops and the library.

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  8. It won't be long before they come for Huckleberry Finn.

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