The Day Children’s Literature Died

Jessica Plummer

Contributing Editor

Jessica Plummer has lived her whole life in New York City, but she prefers to think of it as Metropolis. Her day job is in books, her side hustle is in books, and she writes books on the side (including a short story in Sword Stone Table from Vintage). She loves running, knitting, and thinking about superheroes, and knows an unnecessary amount of things about Donald Duck. Follow her on Twitter at @jess_plummer.

The weather was sunny, the skies were all clear.
The day was the nicest we’d had that whole year.
But nobody was smiling. No, not anymore.
For that day the Censor Ship sailed up to shore.

The gangplank came down and out came some folks
(The kind who don’t laugh at hilarious jokes
About others’ genders and races and looks).
And the folks said “Okay, people, give us the books.”

“No!” we all said. “Not The Cat in the Hat!
Not Green Eggs and Ham! Not The Grinch! Never that!
Not Horton or Lorax or Sneetches, oh no.
We must tell the grads all the places they’ll go!”

“Not those ones,” the woke folks said with a laugh.
“We don’t even want a whole dozen. Just half!
Some books that the doc wrote a long time ago
Have some art even he wouldn’t still want to show.”

They told us which books they would no longer sell
(And which we’d never heard of, truthful to tell).
But just to be clear on what caused such dislikes,
We looked at the art, and in a word: yikes.

The drawings were racist and clueless and dated,
And might make a whole lot of children feel hated.
For that paltry reason, this liberal vulture
Had swooped from the sky and canceled our culture.

Of course we were outraged. “How dare you?” we cried.
“Cancel books for kids just for the hate that’s inside?
If books can’t be racist, then what’s the next rule?
I can’t say the N-word? My friend says it’s cool!

“If children can’t look at these harmful depictions,
They might gain a gallon of woeful addictions,
Like thinking of others and how it might hurt
When some art in a book treats them lower than dirt.

“We simply can’t have it! It’s gross! It’s obscene!
Our children must learn to be selfish and mean!
If they can’t put their peers in a bigoted box
Then they’ll never get hired to hand-wring on Fox!

“This is censorship!” we said. “Orwellian madness!
A slippery slope down to all kinds of badness.
The Seuss estate won’t like this one little bit.”
“But we are the estate,” said the vultures. Well, shit.

“Censorship means that the state gets involved.
This was our problem. Now it’s been solved.
We want Seuss remembered for when he was right.
The mistakes that he made aren’t worth this whole fight.”

And despite all our wailing and rending our shirts,
They cared more for kids than for soothing our hurts.
Though we kicked and we screamed and we caused such a fuss,
Because others are too sensitive — never us!

Despite all our tantrums and statements of dread,
They’d no longer sell these books we’d never read.
The taste in our mouths was sour and bitter. It
Meant that our children would never be literate.

Yes, they carted those six books down to the bay,
And that wicked old Censor Ship sailed them away.
The kids didn’t care, but some old white men cried
On that terrible day children’s literature died.

(For context: 6 Dr. Seuss Books to Cease Publication for Racist Images.)