Monday, January 25, 2016

The Conversation Around A Birthday Cake for George Washington

Recently, I wrote about the controversy over the book A Fine Dessert. There was a lot to think about if you followed the conversation, and as teachers and librarians, I think it is imperative that we are not only readers of children's literature.  I feel like it's also important that we are aware of the books we are reading and the issues surrounding them.

This month, Scholastic published a book called A Birthday Cake for George Washington.  Shortly after it was published, Scholastic released a statement stating that it was decided that they would be pulling it from distribution.

This was a pretty unprecedented move, but the controversy surrounding A Birthday Cake for George Washington, regardless of Scholastic's decision to pull the book, addresses the important issues about the way slavery is portrayed in children's books as well as important issues that deal with diversity in children's books.

Below are the posts I found to be worthwhile reads over the past few weeks.

January 4
Smiling Slaves in a post Fine Dessert World, Kirkus

January 6
Andrea Pinkney wrote about the book before it was released in the post, A Proud Slice of History.

January 6
And Debbie Reese addressed the issues in the book before it's release in her post, What Will They Say?

On January 15 Scholastic responded to the feedback it was getting about the book.

On the same day, January 15 Teaching for Change posted a review, Not Recommended: A Birthday Cake for George Washington

On January 16, Children's Book Causes a Stir for Inaccurate Depiction of Slavery.

And on January 17 the issue was discussed on ABC News.

January 17

January 18
Amid Controversy Scholastic Pulls Book About Washington's Slave.

January 18
Smiling Slaves at Storytime

January 18
Hornbook: A Bumpy Ride (This one is an interesting read and the comments are also worth the read, whether you agree with them or not.)

January 19
Megan at Reading While White: No Text is Sacred

On January 20, award-winning author,  Kimberly Brubaker Bradley weighed in on the discussion.

On January 22, the National Coalition Against Censorship issued a statement about Scholastic's decision.

On January 23, Daniel Jose Older tweeted his response to the statements made relating to censorship. These are collected in a Storify: On Censorship and Slavery.

This has all given me a great deal to think about.  Two other pieces that I have revisited but that are not directly related to the Birthday Cake for George Washington issue are:

This amazing TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story

And this response to the reaction to the  diversity in this year's award books. January 17, Not Mutually Exclusive

Lots to think about and lots of change that needs to happen.  


  1. I was uncomfortable with the book when I read it, but thought "If Pinkney says it's okay..." I wasn't surprised at all when it was pulled, but feel sorry for the author and illustrator, who meant well.

  2. I also recommend the conversation over here:

    And this NPR piece from this past Saturday:

    1. Oh, thanks for those, Monica!


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