Dr. Seuss sales surge after six books cancelled for racist content

Click to play video: '6 Dr. Seuss books will no longer be published due to racist imagery'
6 Dr. Seuss books will no longer be published due to racist imagery
WATCH: Books written by a popular children's author adored around the world are under serious scrutiny. A handful of Dr. Seuss books have been pulled from publication. Jill Croteau reports – Mar 2, 2021

Several Dr. Seuss books have hopped on top of the Amazon bestseller lists in Canada and the United States, after six of his more obscure titles were pulled from future publication due to racist content.

The spike comes after Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which manages his catalogue of nearly 60 titles, announced that it would stop publishing six books due to imagery that is “hurtful and wrong.”

The affected titles are On Beyond Zebra!Scrambled Eggs Super!The Cat’s QuizzerMcElligot’s Pool and Seuss’ first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

The move triggered intense conversations and plenty of opinion pieces online and on television this week, including days of breathless coverage on Fox News’ right-wing opinion shows.

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The cancelled books themselves are hard to come by on Amazon and eBay, but several mainstays from his catalogue have surged to the top of the charts, including Green Eggs and HamThe Cat in the Hat and Oh, the Places You’ll Go.

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Improving inclusion in the media

Nine of the top 10 best-selling books on Amazon in the United States on Friday morning were titles by Dr. Seuss, with a single non-Seuss book breaking up the streak at No. 6. Twenty-three of the top 50 books were Dr. Seuss titles, and two others were written by Tish Rabe using his characters.

The results were similar on Barnes and Noble’s bestseller list, with Dr. Seuss books dominating the top five and appearing throughout the larger list.

Green Eggs and Ham was the most popular Dr. Seuss book on Amazon Canada at No. 5 on the list Friday morning, followed by The Cat in the Hat at No. 9 and a Dr. Seuss box set at No. 10, which includes four of his books.

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The six cancelled books did not make any of the bestseller lists and were generally hard to find on Amazon, which updates its bestseller list on an hourly basis.

It’s unclear exactly how much sales have soared since the move, although Seuss’ books were not nearly as dominant on bestseller lists in past years.

Many of the cancelled books were available on eBay Friday morning, but oh, the price you’ll pay to get one. Bidding for a copy of On Beyond Zebra!, for example, was at $305 with 28 bids, while copies of Mulberry Street were pushing into the $200 to $300 range with dozens of bidders.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced it would pull the six affected titles from future publication on Read Across America Day on Tuesday. The day was once synonymous with Dr. Seuss, but it has split from him in recent years amid greater scrutiny around his works.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises says it cancelled the six books due to racist images.

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” it said in a statement.

Others had raised concerns about the books in the past, including racist caricatures of Asian, African and Arab men in Mulberry Street and If I Ran The Zoo.

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More popular books such as The Cat in the Hat and If I Ran the Circus have also come under criticism, but Dr. Seuss Enterprises did not change its publication plans for those titles.

Dr. Seuss, born Theodor Seuss Geisel, died in 1991 after a long and prolific career as a children’s author. Dr. Seuss Enterprises has been preserving his legacy and his publishing catalogue ever since, and has seen great success over that time.

Dr. Seuss earned US$33 million before taxes last year, making him the second-highest paid dead celebrity, according to Forbes. The only late celebrity ahead of him on the list was Michael Jackson.

It’s unclear exactly how the six cancelled titles will affect the bottom line for Dr. Seuss Enterprises, but the backlash against the decision appears to be driving more sales, not less.

The author’s stepdaughter, Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, defended him in an interview with the New York Post on Tuesday.

“There wasn’t a racist bone in that man’s body,” she said. “He was so acutely aware of the world around him and cared so much.”

Dimond-Cates also acknowledged the reasoning behind the decision to pull the books.

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“I think in this day and age it’s a wise decision,” she said, citing the “difficult, painful” circumstances of the current moment.

“We’re taking that into account and being thoughtful,” she said. “We don’t want to upset anybody.”

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