Melania Trump calls Massachusetts librarian’s comments on Dr. Seuss book donation ‘unfortunate’
First Lady Melania Trump’s communications team on Thursday brushed off a Massachusetts elementary school librarian’s suspiciously political rejection of an honorary donation of 10 Dr. Seuss books for National Read a Book Day.
“Turning the gesture of sending young schoolchildren books into something divisive is unfortunate, but the first lady remains committed to her efforts on behalf of children everywhere,” said Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director.
Liz Phipps Soeiro, school librarian at Cambridgeport Elementary School in Cambridge, denied the donated books from the White House, calling them unneeded.
In so doing, she also slammed the author and Springfield native as “racist” and “a bit of a cliche.”
“You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliche, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature,” Soeiro wrote on Horn Book’s Family Reading blog. “Another fact that many people are unaware of is that Dr. Seuss’s illustrations are steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes. Open one of his books and you’ll see the racist mockery in his art.”
One school in each state was selected to receive the honorary gift, Cambridgeport Elementary School being the Massachusetts honoree.
The topic of racial and political elements in the work of Dr. Seuss has been subject to some dispute.
Theodor Seuss Geisel used his art to decry fascism during World War II, but also drew racially stereotyped anti-Japanese cartoons -- illustrations for which he later expressed regret.
Some too consider the depiction of minority characters in some of his books as caricatured, and Soeiro in her editorial letter linked to an article tracing the Cat in the Hat character’s roots back to “blackface minstrelry.”
Seuss’ most famous works often strike clear messages of anti-authoritarianism, anti-racism and anti-militarism while embracing populism, democratic principles and the then-burgeoning environmental movement.
For its part, the school has issued a statement saying Soeiro acted alone and “was not authorized to accept or reject donated books on behalf of the school or the school district” and has been “counseled” on the “policy against public resources being used for political purposes.”
With his city home to the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden and the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno entered the fray Thursday afternoon to call Soeiro’s comments “political correctness at its worst” and formally invite the president and first lady to visit the museum.
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