Scholastic pulls criticized book on Washington slave

NEW YORK -- Scholastic is pulling a new picture book about George Washington and his slaves amid objections it sentimentalizes a brutal part of American history.

See Full Article

"A Birthday Cake for George Washington" was released Jan. 5 and had been strongly criticized for its upbeat images and story of Washington's cook, the slave Hercules and his daughter, Delia. Its withdrawal was announced Sunday.

"While we have great respect for the integrity and scholarship of the author, illustrator and editor, we believe that, without more historical background on the evils of slavery than this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn," the children's publisher said in a statement released to the AP.

The book, which depicts Hercules and Delia preparing a cake for Washington, has received more than 100 one-star reviews on Amazon.com. As of Sunday evening, only 12 reviews were positive. The book also set off discussions on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere on social media.

While notes in "A Birthday Cake for George Washington" from author Ramin Ganeshram and illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton had pointed out the historical context of the 18th century story and that Hercules eventually escaped, some critics faulted Ganeshram and Brantley-Newton for leaving out those details from the main narrative.

"Oh, how George Washington loves his cake!" reads the publisher's description of the story. "And, oh, how he depends on Hercules, his head chef, to make it for him. Hercules, a slave, takes great pride in baking the president's cake. But this year there is one problem -- they are out of sugar."

The trade publication School Library Journal had called it "highly problematic" and recommended against its purchase. Another trade journal, Kirkus Reviews, had labeled the book "an incomplete, even dishonest treatment of slavery."

Ganeshram's previous works include the novel "Stir It Up" and the nonfiction "FutureChefs," while Brantley-Newton's credits include illustrating the children's series "Ruby and the Booker Boys." Andrea Davis Pinkney, an award-winning author who in 2013 won a Coretta Scott King prize for African-American children's literature, was the editor.

In a Scholastic blog post from last week, Ganeshram wrote that the story was based on historical research and meant to honour the slaves' skill and resourcefulness.

"How could they smile? How could they be anything but unrelentingly miserable?" Ganeshram wrote. "How could they be proud to bake a cake for George Washington? The answers to those questions are complex because human nature is complex. Bizarrely and yes, disturbingly, there were some enslaved people who had a better quality of life than others and 'close' relationships with those who enslaved them. But they were smart enough to use those 'advantages' to improve their lives."

Sunday's announcement comes amid an ongoing debate about the lack of diversity in publishing and recalls a similar controversy from last year. "A Fine Dessert," written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, was criticized for its cheerful depiction of a 19th century slave mother and daughter as they prepared a blackberry dessert. Jenkins apologized, saying that her book, which she "intended to be inclusive and truthful and hopeful, is racially insensitive." ("A Fine Dessert," released by the Random House imprint Schwartz & Wade, remains in print).

Copies of "A Birthday Cake for George Washington" were not easy to find even before Scholastic's decision. The print edition on Amazon.com, ranked No. 13.202 earlier Sunday, was listed as shipping within "2 to 4 weeks." Several Barnes & Noble stores in Manhattan did not have the book in stock. Scholastic spokeswoman Kyle Good said she could not provide an immediate reason for delays in the book's availability.



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • Rapper from Little Rock club shooting held in separate case

    Entertainment CTV News
    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A federal magistrate declared Monday that the rapper who was performing at a Little Rock club during a mass shooting was too dangerous to cut loose pending a trial on a separate weapons charge, rejecting arguments that gunplay captured on video and a tough-guy persona were just part of an act. Source
  • The Who's Roger Daltrey visits teenage cancer patients

    Entertainment CTV News
    CLEVELAND -- Roger Daltrey's voice may not soar as it once did. But even after 50 years of touring he hasn't lost his teenage spirit. The Hall of Fame rocker, who has been an advocate for teen cancer patients for nearly three decades, visited with children, young adults and their families at Rainbow Babies Hospital on Monday. Source
  • Box Office Top 20: 'Dunkirk,' 'Girls Trip' score

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- The news was good for two of the three new openers this weekend. Christopher Nolan's World War II epic "Dunkirk" topped the charts with $50.5 million, while the buddy comedy "Girls Trip" earned $31.2 million to take second place. Source
  • 'Despacito' singers veto Venezuelan leader's campaign remix

    Entertainment CTV News
    CARACAS, Venezuela -- There's a new take on the hit Latin pop song "Despacito." And this one is not garnering accolades from its producers. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro premiered a remix of the song by Puerto Rican duo Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee Sunday, transforming the record-setting single about a slow, romantic seduction into a campaign jingle for his contested constitution rewrite. Source
  • Charlize Theron lost out on 'Showgirls' role to Elizabeth Berkley

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Charlize Theron is secretly glad she missed out on the lead role in Showgirls, because the movie was hammered by the critics. The role of Nomi Malone in the 1995 Paul Vorhoeven film went to Elizabeth Berkley after the Monster star fought hard for the part, convinced it would give her fledgling Hollywood career a huge boost. Source
  • 'The Defenders' review: This is the Marvel team-up you hoped for - Iron Fist and all

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    "The Defenders" is the type of superhero streaming that we've come to expect from Netflix's live-action Marvel productions. Well worth the wait, the new show is every bit the event that Marvel fans hoped it could be. Source
  • Justin Bieber on axed concerts: 'I’ve been on tour for two years!'

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — Justin Bieber is cancelling the rest of his Purpose World Tour “due to unforeseen circumstances.” His representatives didn’t offer details about the cancellation in a statement released Monday but said the singer “loves his fans and hates to disappoint them. Source
  • Kristen Stewart crashes same-sex nuptials in Winnipeg

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Hollywood starlet Kristen Stewart never starred in Wedding Crashers, but her antics over the weekend could land the 27-year-old in the sequel. Winnipeg newlyweds Kirsten and Kayleigh Jennings received quite the wedding gift – and surprise guests --after exchanging vows in their backyard and arriving at restaurant Pizzeria Gusto for their reception on Saturday night. Source
  • Hollywood star Kristen Stewart crashes Winnipeg wedding

    Entertainment CBC News
    Two Winnipeg brides got a bit of a surprise this weekend when Hollywood star Kristen Stewart crashed their wedding. Kirsten and Kayleigh Jennings tied the knot Saturday in a backyard in River Heights "It was kind of touch-and-go because on Saturday we had those torrential downpours. Source
  • THE ROCK: Forever a proud SUNshine Boy

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Never forget your roots! That’s The Rock’s motto. In Johnson’s “The Rock x Siri Dominate The Day” Apple Commercial released recently, viewers may have noticed the former wrestler’s phone background in the commercial was a picture of a young Johnson donning a turtleneck and fanny pack in his 1997 Toronto Sun SUNshine Boy photo shoot. Source