Beloved children's author Dr. Seuss is under attack by logging families in a rural upper Northern California town who want his 1971 classic, "The Lorax," chopped as required reading by their kids.
A special committee of the Laytonville Unified School District met Wednesday to consider a complaint that the book "criminalizes" tree-cutting.
"It seems as though the battle lines are drawn right down the main street of Laytonville," an unincorporated community where both logging interests and environmentalists are prominent, District Supt. Brian Buckley said.
"The Lorax" criticizes the destruction of Earth's forests.
Teachers of the Mendocino County community, for the second year and with approval of the school board, have placed "The Lorax" on its required reading list for second graders.
Complaint Demands Downgrading of Book
But Judith Bailey, with backing from other logging families, filed a complaint with the school district demanding that the book be at least downgraded to optional reading.
Her husband, Bill, is a nationwide logging equipment wholesaler. He has posted warnings about "The Lorax" in his mail-order catalogue.
Petitions have been circulated through the community by both sides. Backers of the book defend its worthiness and the principal of academic freedom.
Dr. Seuss, 85, an award-winning humorous children's author whose real name is Theodor Geisel, and his publisher, Random House, have had no comment on the controversy.
His book and TV cartoon works include "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "The Cat in the Hat," "Horton Hears a Who" and "Green Eggs and Ham."
The Baileys' 8-year-old son, Sammy, inadvertently set off the battle.
He came home from school one day declaring:
"Poppa, we can't cut trees down. It's not good. You take the houses away from the little animals."
Bill Bailey has charged that "The Lorax" "criminalizes a very legitimate and needed industry, implies we lack concern, ignores that we are planting trees, that we give a damn about the creeks and erosion . . . and that we are looking for sustained yield."
Considering the complaint against the book was a panel of two teachers, two community representatives, two school administrators, a school librarian technician and a librarian from outside the district.
The 'Timber Wars' of Northern California
The committee will make a recommendation to the school board.
"The Lorax" was chosen for its readability, content and age appropriateness, Buckley said.
"It has been taught before and will remain on the core literature list as required reading for second-graders unless the school board decides otherwise," Buckley said.
Of the dispute, Buckley said, "I think it's a local manifestation of a much larger issue"--the "timber wars" in Northern California, pitting lumber interests against conservationists.
"The timber industry feels like it's under siege," Buckley said. "This area also attracts a large number of environment-oriented people who are concerned about the number of trees getting cut.
"We're the only governmental body for 50 miles, so this school district has become the stage on which the drama is played out. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the issue."