Dr. Seuss is probably one of the most well-known authors of children’s books given classics like “Green Eggs and Ham” and “Oh The Places You’ll Go.” But the author, whose real name was Theodor Geisel, carries a complicated legacy, which includes drawing racist political cartoons, for example. And now, six of his books are being permanently pulled from publication given "racist and insensitive imagery,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday. In a statement published online, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, a company that preserves the author’s work, said the “books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” The books that will no longer be published include “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street” and “The Cat’s Quizzer.”
Geisel has been such a staple of children’s literature that his birthday — March 2 — corresponds with Read Across America Day, which was first launched in 1998 by the National Education Association as a celebration of reading. For this year’s iteration, NEA’s program focused on diverse books — the organization said last month it would spotlight stories about children of color in 2021 — and selected “Tiara’s Hat Parade” as the March pick for elementary schoolers. To that end and to help anyone shopping for Dr. Seuss-like children’s books, we’ve compiled some alternatives, including popular classics and contemporary options.
1. “A Bad Case of Stripes” by David Shannon
Originally published in 1998, “A Bad Case of Stripes” follows Camilla Cream, a young girl who loves lima beans but refuses to eat them in order to fit in with her fellow classmates, who don’t like them at all. But all that worrying about fitting in causes her to develop a case of the stripes, with her body covered in different colored stripes. It’s recommended for children between the ages of four to eight.
2. “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle
Another classic you might have read when you were younger, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” follows the titular caterpillar for a week as he eats his way through different fruits and foods he finds around, like chocolate cake and Swiss cheese. It has won numerous awards for its illustrations. Author Eric Carle also wrote “10 Little Rubber Ducks” and illustrated “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”
3. “Tiara’s Hat Parade” by Kelly Starling Lyons
NEA’s pick for the month of March, “Tiara’s Hat Parade” is centered around young Tiara and her mother, who gives up her dream of owning a hat shop when another hat shop opens up nearby with much less expensive hats. Tiara ends up helping her mother in this illustrated children’s book that’s recommended for ages five and six. You can also find discussion questions online.
4. “The Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister
Another classic, “The Rainbow Fish” follows one fish who has glittering scales and learns how to be less selfish and share with others. Throughout the story, the fish ends up giving away his famous scales and gaining friends. The book was first published in 1992 and is recommended for 4- to 8-year olds.
5. “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown
“Goodnight Moon” could be one of the books you can add to your child’s bedtime routine. The story is centered around a little bunny as they say goodnight to everything in their room — from clocks to socks and, of course, the moon. It just might inspire a few dreams and can be a great gift for someone who recently had a baby, as it’s recommended for babies to 4-year-olds.
6. “Don’t Touch My Hair!” by Sharee Miller
We’ve previously recommended “Don’t Touch My Hair,” as lauded by Vashti Harrison, who wrote “Hair Love.” In this picture book, Aria deals with strangers and strange creatures like mermaids and aliens always touching her curls until, one day, she decides that she’s had enough of it. The book is recommended for children who are 2- to 5-year-olds.
7. “A Light In The Attic” by Shel Silverstein
Shel Silverstein is well-known for his poetry, including collections like “Where The Sidewalk Ends.” Characters like Sourface Ann and Exactlywatt could keep kids entertained for years to come. Another classic that kids might love from Silverstein’s is “The Giving Tree.”