If I Ran the Zoo
Random House, 1950, 1977
From the dust jacket, “Young Gerald McGrew went to the zoo one day and came up with some crazy ideas about how he would change it – maybe there weren’t any crazy ideas, but there are certainly some crazy animals he dreamt up. First, he would open the cages and let all of the ‘old-fashioned’ animals loose (lions, tigers, ducks, etc.) and second, he would travel the world searching for unique animals.
“And what are those unique animals, you ask? Well … how about a ten-footed lion? Or an elephant-cat! Also, there’s an animal known as Bustard and one known as Flustard. And then there’s the very cool, blue-furred Iota and the Tufted Mazurka!”
Dr. Seuss wrote this rhyming book for kittens, not adult cats, so of course, certain cat parents have become upset with it over the years – wanting to ban it because it is derogatory toward one group of humans – but amazingly, I haven’t read any complaints about the illustrations of another group of humans being derogatory (the illustrations depicting Africans are really close to insulting that particular group).
The primary reason the book has been challenged is for the line:
“I’ll hunt in the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant
With helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant.”
Now, it is of the Library’s opinion that Dr. Seuss chose the ‘offending’ phrase because it rhymed with the line before it – not for any nefarious reason! This line is also accompanied by a stereotypical-illustration Asians with slanted eyes and ‘Fu-Manchu’ mustaches, circa 1950, which helps to cement the offensive nature of the book to sensitive readers. If you remember any of the movies from the 40s-50s that had folks from the Pacific Rim acting, you’ll get the idea.
So, here’s the thing, my opinion for what it’s worth, before you read a book to a kitten, read it yourself first. If you don’t like it or it goes against your morals, don’t read it to them; but don’t prevent other kitten parents from reading it! It’s okay if you don’t like the book. But it’s not okay if you won’t even let me read it to decide if I like it or not! Okay, I’m off the soapbox, for now, any way!
This book, as are all of Dr. Seuss’ are, is a product of the age in which it was written and illustrated. To change or censor the classic book would be as bad as banning it. I don’t particularly like Dr. Seuss – his nonsensical writing style is cute but also drives me crazy!! And, his creatures all look alike – or mostly alike. But that doesn’t mean other kittens and cats shouldn’t read it! Try it, you may like it!!!
Rating: 3 out of 5 paws – not because it’s offensive (The Library is only occasionally offended by a book or work of art) but because I just don’t like Dr. Seuss – or at least this book! Too nonsensical for me.
I found this one instance of book-challenging: “Stereotypical depictions of Asians, who “all wear their eyes at a slant,” were the reason this book was challenged in Vancouver (BC) in 2014. Vancouver Public Library chose to keep it on the shelves, but will not be reading it at storytimes, and will only promote it as an example of how depictions of other cultures have changed over time.”
And from a review of 6/17/17 from Amazon.com: “This book has lots of racist message, whoever wrote that particular Dr Seuss book is vicious, want to poison kid mind” [sic]