If I Ran the Zoo

If I Ran the Zoo

Book - 1950
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If Gerald McGrew ran the zoo, he'd let all the animals go and fill it with more unusual beasts--a ten-footed lion, an Elephant-Cat, a Mulligatawny, a Tufted Mazurka, and others.
Publisher: New York, Random House [1950]
ISBN: 9780394900810
Branch Call Number: JE/SEU
Characteristics: [56] p. col. illus. 31 cm.


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Mar 23, 2021

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 and talk about them, not lock them away.

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

Mar 18, 2021

There is only one page which has content which could be argued as racist:
“I’ll hunt in the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant with helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant.”
The page shows people drawn with slanted eyes. But these people are not even called Asian. They are not said to be from any Asian country. So people who call it racist are assuming that these people drawn in the book are Asian. Many of Seuss’ animals are entirely made up, so why can’t he make up people who have slanted eyes? Isn’t it more racist for people to assume that these fictional slanted eyed people must be Asian because they have slanted eyes?
By the way, I’m Asian, and I’m not offended. People of different races do have different appearances, and that’s a fact. Was Seuss not allowed to draw any Asian characters? If he didn’t, he’d get called racist for not including them!
Another of Seuss’ books has characters called Zeds who all have just one hair upon their heads. So was Seuss hating on bald people?

Mar 10, 2021

The purpose of libraries is to provide books so the populace could educate itself. Libraries, by necessity, must also include offensive content. I want to read this book myself and draw my own conclusions about it, which is my right. Shame on you, San Diego, for limiting your citizens' education and right to think for themselves!

Mar 08, 2021

It takes a whole lot of white self-entitlement to ridicule people for having "white guilt." Whites have had a colonial mindset for a few centuries now and many seem to have no sense of why minorities don't like being portrayed as objects of caricature or novelty. Seuss was a product of his time and that time is gone. He has many books that aren't offensive. This handful can be edited or studied as museum pieces, but you better have some good explanations for your kids when they start wondering why other cultures are being made fun of in library books.

Mar 08, 2021

Excellent book for a lot of kids and adults! Some of you folks are so riddled with White Guilt you're on the HUNT for anything that could be even remotely construed as "racist". You then point it out as quickly as possible like some over achiever student raising your hand in class for attention. If you don't like the book fine don't check it out, but don't ruin it for others that might want to check it out.
What's next cancel Mark Twain and Huckleberry Fin? It's really loaded with "racism"

Mar 08, 2021

I do not like the sjw virtue signaling cancel culture here. I do not like it there. I do not like it anywhere.

Sep 17, 2020

This book for children has racist content
(slurs and illustrations). Surprised it doesn't have a warning. Better yet, it should be removed.

Aug 18, 2018

Whenever I see something that I would have done differently or wonder how something was done, I am reminded of the opening lines to this story. It is very unfortunate that an Asian reference, which I'm sure in 1950 was only meant to convey somewhere exotic among so many fictitious places, is uncomfortably close to a racist description today. I don't condone that, but I'd like to think this might lead to discussion about sensitivity and tolerance instead of censorship. My favourite Seuss story "What Was I Scared Of?" (1961) and several of his other stories do a good job approaching this subject directly. I'm reading a 1st edition Tom Swift novel published in 1910 at the moment because of its prophetic descriptions of electric cars and battery technology but am dismayed by its really cringe-worthy portrayal of hired-hand Eradicate Sampson. Baby and bath water. Thankfully times continue to change.

Jun 30, 2018

Dated in its visual sensitivity. Not one of the better stories.

Sep 11, 2016

A classic. A book of lists, imagination gone wild. Good for the under fives.

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Sep 30, 2020

Other: Racist book.


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