And to think that I saw it … racism or imagination?

And to think that I saw it … Or, to think that I did not. Marco and was not the only one and Mulberry Street was not the only place.

Recently there has been a lot of discussion after Dr. Seuss Enterprises retired six books based on racist imagery. Of the six books, one caught my attention. The book, “And to Think That I saw it on Mulberry Street”, was one of my favorite books as a child. I was curious what racist imagery existed in the book and went online to find out. At the very end of the book, Marco describes a man as “Chinese” and the illustration of this man has two lines for his eyes.

And, to think, that I never saw the racist imagery makes me sad.

That is not surprising. As a child, racism was nothing that I ever thought about in my secluded, all-white world. It was not until I was an adult and a part of the educational system that I began to learn how to see the world from the perspectives of others. If you have not yet read, “White Fragility”, I recommend it. It is a book that can help you understand my upbringing in comparison to someone growing up in a more diverse setting.

Regardless of your opinions on the matter, I am glad our world is paying close attention to the imagery presented to children. I could share about other imagery that I think is dangerous, but that is a blog for another day.

Today, since this book is no longer in print, I wanted to reflect on why this specific story was one of my favorites. Aside from the inappropriate reference, the rest of the book inspired me to use my imagination. Growing up in a Christian home, I knew the difference between telling the truth and telling lies. My parents made sure of that.

The book, “And to Think That I saw it on Mulberry Street” helped me to understand the difference between fictional tales and being honest. In the story, Marco is imagining the wonderful story he could tell his dad about what he saw on the way home from school. He turns a simple horse and wagon into an outlandish tale of elephants, zebras, chariots, and even confetti. Before Marco finishes his thoughts, he has created a parade complete with police escorts and airplanes. In the end, as he rushes inside to share the story, he realizes that his dad is wanting a truthful answer. He leaves the big tale inside his head and shares the simple boring truth with his dad.

And to think that I saw myself in the text.

I identified with Marco so much. I wanted the simple mundane things in my life to be bigger and more exciting too. It was through this book, that I realized children’s stories could be a place where it was possible to create that world. This book was a big part of why I wanted to become a Children’s author and illustrator. As a teacher, it is a book that helped me to see the importance of allowing my students to use their imagination.

How would you finish the sentence, “And to think that I saw …..” ? What books inspired you as a child? Leave a comment below..

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