Scholastic Stops Distribution of

9780545538237_ca86eA children’s picture book that features George Washington’s enslaved cook has been withdrawn from sale by the publisher Scholastic, just weeks after it hit shelves.

Bowing to widespread pressure, Scholastic has ceased distribution of A Birthday Cake for George Washington, written by Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, saying in a press release, “We do not believe this title meets the standards of appropriate presentation of information to younger children, despite the positive intentions and beliefs of the author, editor, and illustrator.”

At first Scholastic defended the book. VP and executive editor, Andrea Davis Pinkney posted an explanation on the company’s website. The book’s author also posted a  defense on the Children’s Book Council site.

Published just a few weeks ago on Jan 5., the book is facing similar charges to those leveled at another recently published picture book that also features slaves smiling while they create a treat for the household’s masters,  A Fine DessertFour Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Sophie Blackall (RH/Schwartz & Wade).

SLJ Book Review Editor Kiera Parrott, who wrote a starred review of that book, reversing her position after considering the complaints against it, panned A Birthday Cake for George Washington, calling it “A troubling depiction of American slavery … A highly problematic work; not recommended.”

Many libraries seem to have taken note. A search of World Cat reveals few holdings.

The controversy is getting wide coverage with pieces in The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Forbes. The story is even making UK news with the BBC reporting on it as well.

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