Scholastic stops sales of “A Birthday Cake for George Washington”



That was fast.

In my weekend link round-up, I noted that a new picture book, “A Birthday Cake for George Washington,” written by Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, was drawing criticism for its cheerful portrayal of Hercules, George Washington’s enslaved cook. Scholastic, which published the title on Jan. 5, announced later on Sunday that it was halting the book’s distribution.

Here’s the full Associated Press story on the decision.

The criticisms of “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” are similar to those leveled at “A Fine Dessert” last fall, but while author Emily Jenkins apologized for that book’s portrayal of slavery, Random House is still selling it.


Weekend Round-up: #WhereIsRey & other problems in children’s toys and media


I’ve been reading/listening to some interesting debates and discussions on social issues in children’s books and toys lately. Here are a few links worth checking out.

1. Missing in action figures

Without seeing “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” I’ve heard enough about to know that the main protagonist, Rey, is female. So I was surprised to hear about her absence from most of the film’s merchandise. The Brood, a parenting podcast/radio show, dives into the details, reactions and corporate explanations.

2.  More smiling slaves making desserts, more controversy

You may have heard about the backlash a few months ago over the portrayal of slaves in “A Fine Dessert.” Now a new picture book, “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” is receiving similar scrutiny.

3. ALA’s Youth Media awards are here, and so are some ugly reactions

The Caldecott, the Newbery and all the other annual Youth Media Awards from the American Library Association were announced Monday. I was happy to see many great books I read last year in the mix, including a good number with diverse characters and authors. Apparently not everyone was as pleased. The Reading While White blog rebuts some commenters’ claims that committees must have been kowtowing to PC-ness. The short post ends in a perfect way, by using the beautiful last line from Newbery winner “Last Stop on Market Street.”