An adult humor book will no longer be published as a result of protests by online critics who consider it racist.
On Monday, December 5, Abrams announced that at the request of the author it will cease publication of Bad Little Children’s Books: KidLit Parodies, Shameless Spoofs, and Offensively Tweaked Covers, a parody of 120 covers from an older generation of kids’ books. Abrams will continue to sell the books it has but will not print more.
Bad Little Children’s Books was published in September without controversy. However, on December 2, it was the subject of a scathing article by Kelly Jensen, “It’s Not Funny. It’s Racist,” published on the Book Riot website. A former librarian and blogger, Jensen declared two images “unforgivable.”
One was a parody drawing depicting the cover of a book titled “The Anti-Vaccine Kid and the Gift of a Navajo Blanket Riddled with Smallpox.” It showed a Navajo family looking on as a white boy broke out in spots holding a blanket. “....[T]he suggestion that smallpox is a disease rampant in the Navajo community is disgusting and utterly racist,” Jensen wrote.
The other cover is for a book called “Happy Burkaday, Timmy!” It shows a young girl in an Muslim headdress giving a gift of a ticking time bomb to Timmy. “This kind of humor is never acceptable. It’s deadly,” Jensen said.
Abrams defended the parody in a statement that was issued following Jensen’s article. But the protest grew over the weekend. On Monday, the author, who wrote the book using a pseudonym, issued a statement explaining that he had asked Abrams to cease publication because the book “is being misread as the very act of hate and bigotry that the work was meant to expose.”
The American Booksellers Association, the Association of American Publishers, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, and other groups joined a statement by the National Coalition Against Censorship expressing support for Abram’s right to publish the book.
“We support Abrams’ decision to publish this or any other book, even if it offends some readers,” the statement said. “....[W]e value the incredibly rich array of books that publishers make available for readers with different needs, interests, and sensibilities. It would be a tragic loss if publishers withdrew or declined to publish any book because some people don’t like it. Our bookstore and library shelves would become barren places indeed.”
Bad Little Children’s Books is the fifth book in the last 12 months to become the subject of controversy because of its allegedly racist content. In January, Scholastic withdrew A Birthday Cake for George Washington following complaints that it wasn’t sufficiently critical of slavery.
In August, Candlewick postponed the release of another children’s book, When We Was Fierce, after it was criticized for using racist stereotypes. The book remains unavailable.
Two other books that were the targets of protest remain in print, A Fine Dessert (Schwartz and Wade) and There Is a Tribe of Kids (Roaring Brook). The first was criticized because some believed it inaccurately portrayed slaves, while the second was allegedly demeaning to Native Americans.