Scholastic has pulled an illustrated children’s book after complaints that the storyline makes light of slavery.
The book, A Birthday Cake for George Washington, presents a problem the first U.S. president’s “servants” face when making his cake — a lack of sugar.
The title’s description on Scholastic’s website says the story is based on real events, and claims to “Serve up a slice of history in a picture book narrative that will surely satisfy.”
“Hercules, a slave, takes great pride in baking the president’s cake. But this year there is one problem — they are out of sugar.”
It details the story of Hercules and his daughter Delia, who no matter how sweet the cake turns out to be, “will not taste the sweetness of freedom.”
The story was penned by New York Times food writer Ramin Ganeshram and illustratated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. It was released on Jan. 5.
The book has been slammed on Amazon, with 80 per cent of reviewers giving it one star.
“I can’t believe people are celebrating a children’s story that depicts happy, joyful slaves. Horrible. Please don’t let your children read this,” says one reviewer.
“An insulting tale that sprinkles glitter on rape, murder, torture and servitude,” says another.
“Next there will be a book about the Jews baking a cake for Hitler! Disgusting.”
On Sunday Scholastic released a statement announcing it would stop distributing the book.
“While we have great respect for the integrity and scholarship of the author, illustrator, and editor, we believe that, without more historical background on the evils of slavery than this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn,” the statement reads.
Despite positive intentions by the author, the statement goes on, the book does not meet Scholastic’s “standards of appropriate presentation of information to younger children.”
The author’s Twitter account appears to have been removed since Scholastic’s decision, but in a blog post last week Ganeshram wrote that she spent four years researching the book, and defends the choice to depict the characters as proud, happy people.
Scholastic says it will accept all returns of the book.
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