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can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn," the children's publisher said in a statement released to the AP.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

  • 'Wonder Woman' London premiere scrapped after Manchester attack

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Film bosses at Warner Bros. have scrapped their promotional plans for Wonder Woman in London in the wake of the deadly bomb blast in Manchester that cost 22 people their lives. The Wonder Woman premiere in England’s capital and countless junkets have been cancelled. Source
  • Sandra Bullock's stalker ordered to stay away from her

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    LOS ANGELES — A man who broke into Sandra Bullock’s home in 2014 and forced the Oscar-winning actress to hide in her closet while calling police has been sentenced to continued mental health treatment and probation after pleading no contest to felony stalking and burglary charges. Source
  • Watch: Justin Bieber bungles lyrics to his Spanish hit Despacito

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Justin Bieber flubbed his way through a club performance of his Luis Fonsi collaboration Despacito on Tuesday after forgetting the lyrics to his Spanish smash. The Baby hitmaker jumped onstage at New York hotspot 1 OAK when the remix track came on, but he struggled to remember any of the words. Source
  • Jean Paul Riopelle painting sells for more than $7.4M

    Entertainment CBC News
    A painting by the late Quebec artist Jean Paul Riopelle has sold for more than $7.4 million, good for second on the list of Canada's most expensive works of art. Going into the Heffel Fine Art Auction House's spring sale on Wednesday, the painting Vent du nord had a conservative pre-sale estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million. Source
  • Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood has lung lesion removed

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    LOS ANGELES — A spokesperson for Ronnie Wood says the Rolling Stones guitarist has had a lung lesion successfully removed and is expected to make a full recovery. Wood, who turns 70 next week, says in a statement that he is grateful to doctors who found the lesion in its early stages. Source
  • Carrie Fisher would have led the cast of Episode IX: Star Wars boss

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Carrie Fisher would have been the star of the ninth Star Wars film had she lived. Lucasfilm Ltd president Kathleen Kennedy has revealed writers were planning to make her General Leia Organa character a major part of the film before the actress suffered a massive heart attack on a plane flight home to Los Angeles from London in December and died days after Christmas. Source
  • Playboy model pleads no contest for Snapchat post of nude gymgoer

    Entertainment CBC News
    A Playboy centerfold was ordered to clean up graffiti Wednesday for secretly snapping a photo of a naked 71-year-old woman in a locker room and posting it online with a mocking comment. Dani Mathers pleaded no contest to misdemeanor invasion of privacy in Los Angeles County Superior Court for the case that sparked outrage over the incident of so-called body shaming. Source
  • London premiere of 'Wonder Woman' is cancelled after attack

    Entertainment CTV News
    Director Patty Jenkins, from left, and actors Connie Nielsen, Chris Pine and Gal Gadot participate in the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss the film, "Wonder Woman" at AOL Studios on May 23, 2017, in New York. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) Source
  • Wonder Woman's London premiere cancelled after Manchester attack

    Entertainment CBC News
    The glitzy, star-filled London premiere of Wonder Woman has been scrapped following the terror attack in Manchester. Stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Robin Wright had been scheduled to walk a red carpet on May 31 to help welcome the super hero film to Europe. Source
  • Ariana Grande cancels world tour stops through June 5

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Ariana Grande's management team says she has suspended her world tour through June 5 in the wake of a suicide bombing at her concert in Manchester. The pop star, who was on a European leg of her "Dangerous Woman Tour," cancelled stops scheduled for Thursday and Friday at the 02 Arena in London. Source