Mar 29, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Dr. Seuss makes a comeback

Photo of children reading "The Cat in the Hat"

Children read from "The Cat in the Hat." Photo: Vince Bucci/Getty Images

A year after six Dr. Seuss books were shelved for racist imagery, the family franchise is doing better than ever.

Why it matters: A proactive campaign by Dr. Seuss Enterprises — the private company that manages the work of the late Theodor Seuss Geisel— to address Dr. Seuss' fractured history on race is paying off.

Driving the news: Dr. Seuss is the #1 literary license in the U.S. by print sales, according to data from NPD BookScan. That means it's selling more copies than any other IP-based books, including both children's and adults' titles.

  • And many of Dr. Seuss' most famous titles, especially "Green Eggs and Ham," continue to resonate with multi-cultural communities.

Flashback: Last year, Dr. Seuss Enterprises discontinued six books containing content that is today deemed racist, including “If I Ran the Zoo,” and “McElligot's Pool."

  • "Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families," the company said at the time.

The big picture: These efforts to acknowledge the past haven't slowed down the future.

  • Netflix has announced five new, animated series and specials based on Dr. Seuss books. The streaming giant is hoping to use the new shows to hook pre-schoolers.
  • Amazon is developing a baking competition series inspired by Dr. Seuss books, per Variety.
  • The White House, which neglected to mention the legendary children’s author during its annual "Read Across America Day" last year, included Dr. Seuss in its 2022 event.

What's next: Dr. Seuss Enterprises is taking new steps to expand the Dr. Seuss portfolio, Dr. Seuss Enterprises President Susan Brandt tells Axios.

  • The company said earlier this month it would team with Random House Children’s Books to launch "Seuss Studios," a line of books for early readers, working with an inclusive community of new and emerging authors and illustrators.
  • "Seuss Studios will carry forward Dr. Seuss’s legacy of inspiring millions of people to learn to love to read by working with these authors and illustrators to create books for all young readers and families that capture Dr. Seuss’s hallmark spirit of creativity and imagination," Brandt said.
U.S. print sales of Dr. Seuss books
Reproduced from NPD BookScan; Chart: Axios Visuals

By the numbers: Dr. Seuss sold more books last year than in the previous three years.

  • So far this year, sales are down compared to this time last year, likely due to the fact that there was a huge surge in sales in response to the initial shelving of six books last year.

The intrigue: Dr. Seuss' books are still a mainstay of literacy programs, including in communities of color.

  • Afro Latina actress and singer Christina Milian read “Green Eggs and Ham" on video recently, to kick off a literacy event.
  • A tutoring program in Colorado and a school in Iowa have also turned to Dr. Seuss in programs for Latino and Asian American students.

Bottom line: "What is really ironic about that (the book sale surge last year) is the publisher, Penguin Random House controls the decision-making, so they were the ones who decided to take those titles out of print, and they were the ones who benefited from the reaction," said Kristen McLean, Executive Director in the books and entertainment division at The NPD Group.

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