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LI bookstores, libraries weigh future of Dr. Seuss books that won't be published

A copy of the book "And to Think

A copy of the book "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," by Dr. Seuss. It was published in 1937. Credit: AP/Steven Senne

Oh, the places they'll go — potentially right off the shelves.

Publication of six Dr. Seuss books, including "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," and "If I Ran the Zoo," will cease because of their racist and insensitive imagery, the company that preserves the legacy of the popular children's author announced Tuesday.

The move prompted some Long Island bookstores and libraries to consider removing the books.

"These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong," Dr. Seuss Enterprises said in a statement Tuesday coinciding with the 117th birthday of author and illustrator Theodor Seuss Geisel, who died in 1991. "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."

Copies of "McElligot’s Pool," "On Beyond Zebra!" "Scrambled Eggs Super!" and "The Cat’s Quizzer" also will no longer be published because of the culturally insensitive ways they depict Black and Asian people and others, the statement said.

Judith Mitzner, owner of Dolphin Bookshop in Port Washington, said she was surprised to see the "horrible" imagery of 1937's "Mulberry Street," which includes an Asian person wearing a conical hat, holding chopsticks and eating from a bowl.

"I can appreciate that this would not be well received at this time," said Mitzner, who no longer plans to carry the book. "I don't believe the intent was to offend. It's just … how we drew pictures of different cultures back then without thinking about how it would impact them."

"We have to clean our act up a bit but need to be careful about what we get offended about," Mitzner said. "Not everything is offensive. But hopefully the lesson is that this is not appropriate. We had a different way of looking at things back then. But we are smarter and more aware today and changing the way we behave."

The book "If I Ran the Zoo" includes a drawing of two bare-footed African men wearing what appear to be grass skirts with their hair tied above their heads.

Jesse Bartel, manager of Book Hampton in East Hampton, said the works that came under scrutiny Tuesday are not in high demand.

"We only keep the most known ones [by Dr. Seuss] so it doesn't really affect our inventory," Bartel said. "These are not the most popular ones like 'Fox in Socks,' 'The Cat in the Hat' and 'Oh, the Places You'll Go.'"

Barnes & Noble, a chain of bookstores that has multiple locations on Long Island, did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Long Island libraries said no decision has been reached on how to handle the six books — the majority of which were in stock Tuesday at locations in Nassau and Suffolk.

Lauren Agostino, assistant manager of the Freeport Library, said a committee of librarians will look at the books and make a recommendation about whether to remove them.

"We'll pull the titles and take a look, especially if the parent company that produces them is saying they are not going to publish them anymore," Agostino said.

Officials with the region's two main library systems said individual branches will decide for themselves whether to carry the books.

"None of these decisions are made centrally," said Derek Ivie, youth services coordinator at the Suffolk Cooperative Library System. "But representation is so important in children's books. So if the Dr. Seuss Company says these are things they are no longer going to be publishing, that's something we take notice of."

Renee McGrath, youth services manager at the Nassau County Library System, added that "we are all striving for a diverse collection that represents everyone in our community. We support the libraries but won't tell them what to buy."

With AP

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