CAMBRIDGE GRINCH AND HER BIG DR. SEUSS DIS
Nephew crying foul over racism charge vs. author
The grandnephew of Springfield native Dr. Seuss is defending the beloved children’s author after a Cambridge librarian rejected a gift of 10 Seuss books from first lady Melania Trump, saying they “are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes.”
“I know one thing for sure — I never saw one ounce of racism in anything he said, or how he lived his life, or what his stories were about,” said Ted Owens, who called the charges “preposterous” against his great uncle, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel.
“When you have grinches and sneetches and all his other characters, how can you say that’s racist? His characters are based on madeup characters,” Owens said. “They’re SamIAm, they’re elephants, ‘Horton Hears a Who.’ ”
Cambridge Public Schools librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro sparked the controversy yesterday, when she turned down a donation of 10 Dr. Seuss books from Melania Trump, sent as part of National Read a Book Day
“Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” Phipps Soeiro wrote in a sharply worded letter to the first lady, posted on The Horn Book blog, decrying the “minstrel characteristics and trope nature” of Seuss’ characters.
“Open one of his books (If I Ran a Zoo or And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, for example), and you’ll see the racist mockery in his art,” Phipps Soeiro stated.
“You may not be aware of this,” she archly lectured Trump, “but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliche, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature.”
Phipps Soeiro also scolded the first lady about Department of Education funding cuts, suggesting she instead donate the books to “underfunded and underprivileged communities that continue to be marginalized and maligned by policies put in place by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.”
The librarian then delivered a backhanded compliment, calling the gift “a wonderful gesture, if one that could have been better thought out,” while also noting the books were “sent secondday air, no less! That must have been expensive.”
Cambridge Public Schools quickly distanced itself from Phipps Soeiro, noting her letter didn’t constitute an official rejection of the books, nor did her opinions reflect that of the school system. The department also “counseled” her on “all relevant policies, including donation policies and the policy against public resources being used for political purposes.”
Geisel, the author and illustrator of “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham,” remains celebrated around the globe. The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum opened in Springfield earlier this year. And first lady Michelle Obama hosted a Dr. Seuss party at the White House in 2015, reading children “Oh, the Things You Can Do That Are Good for You.”
Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, a Democrat, issued a harsh rebuke of the Cambridge librarian, saying in a statement, “‘One fish — two fish — red fish — blue fish’ — I think her comments ‘stink’ and are ridiculous towards our beloved Dr. Seuss. We’re extremely proud to be home to the one and only Dr. Seuss Museum in the world. By the way, attendance has been through the roof, too!
“Her comments that this is ‘racist propaganda and that Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliche and a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature’ is ‘political correctness’ at its worst . ... By the way, kudos to First Lady Melania Trump for her generous offer to donate Dr. Seuss books to that Cambridge school library — they don’t want them — we’ll take them and would be honored to have the First Lady and President Trump ... visit.”
NO THANKS: Cambridge Public Schools librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro slammed a donation of books by Dr. Seuss from first lady Melania Trump, right.