Okay, here goes.

I saw the pages--that I noticed there are only two--in which the characters could conceivably be denounced as "racist." And my reaction was.... so what?

I was about 14 pages in and wondering what all the fuss was about when I spotted the first "problem"; about 35 pages in when I saw the next.

But my thought was this: The characters, Black and Asian, appear incidentally here to signify a young boy's fancifully imaginative ideas about the creatures and peoples of geographic locations in parts of the world he's clearly never seen or experienced.

And if those images are presented as reductive caricatures--and frankly they are, particularly the African people--it might be helpful to keep in mind that "If I Ran The Zoo" is, after all, a typically Seussian celebration of the wild, the offbeat and the playfully bizarre. It was written by a white man born in 1904, who may (or may not) have had some issues with people who don't look like him, speak like him, or come from where he comes from--not unlike many if not most of his contemporaries. And "Zoo" was published in the America of 1950, not the most racially sensitive or inclusive time. A little context might be helpful, is what I'm saying.

If it matters at all, I happen to be an African-American public library staffer who grew up loving the whimsical absurdities of the Dr. Seuss books. If there are things to be concerned about them, and other classic works that explore controversial themes or feature controversial characters--Mark Twain, anyone?--the more honest approach would be to keep them in public view, READ THEM (not just take some else's word on what they say and what it means), and talk about them, not lock them away.

Because that smacks of censorship, of some committee somewhere deciding for everyone else what is appropriate or allowed. Rather a poor reflection on this supposed land of the free and home of the brave. And public libraries.

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