Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Take Action: Contact Scholastic about Clifford's Halloween

This morning as I prep for an event that is framed as a book fair, I started looking for an image of book fairs to remind people that they make choices at fairs. They look carefully. I found a Scholastic Book Fair image that includes several of its more popular characters. One of them is Clifford the Big Red Dog. 

It is the perfect image to make my point. If you go to a Scholastic Book Fair and you see Clifford's Halloween on the table, pick it up. Page through it. What do you see? Newer editions of the book have "An Indian" or "An Indian Chief" in them. 

But, the very first edition, published in 1966, did not have an Indian. Instead, Clifford is shown as a zebra. Why did it get replaced with the Indian image, in 1986?! Scholastic--if you're reading this, can you tell us why that happened? (Screen caps below are from video read-alouds people have shared of them reading the book):

"A zebra" in 1966 edition

"An Indian" in 1986 edition

"An Indian chief" in 2011 edition

Do you have the 1986 or 2011 edition of the book on your home, classroom, or library shelf? 

If it is a personal copy, please send it to Scholastic. Ask them to revert to the zebra page or come up with a new costume for Clifford. And ask them to add a page to the revised book that tells readers they had "An Indian" and "An Indian chief" in their 1986 and 2011 editions. Sometimes, authors (or those who control their estate) decide to remove problematic text or illustrations from their books. A note about the revised content is not included in the book. Librarians write to me to ask for notes about that because it helps them in their collection development. They'd like to remove the problematic version and replace it with the newer one. Such notes can be very helpful! They can show us that people are capable of listening to concerns, and that they take action to incorporate what they've learned. 

If you send your copy of the book to Scholastic, please let me know! If you're comfortable in doing so, use social media to tell others what you're doing. You can use the #StepUpScholastic hashtag. 

Back to add their address:
Scholastic Inc.
557 Broadway
New York, NY 10012-3999


Anonymous said...

Scholastic reissued the 1966 edition in 2017 as the "Hardcover Vintage Edition" this is the one our library has.

Anonymous said...

The only reason I can think of for the change is that they wanted more colors in the costumes— the Knight was also changed and now has rainbow colors. But if that’s the case then there are like dozens of other ways they could have gone. Like a rainbow unicorn or even a multi colorful zebra.

Claire, preschool teacher

Alison Day, Youth Services Manager said...

Wow! Thanks for bringing this up! My system just ordered Clifford books for SRP and I will make sure we’re not putting this out there.

Sara M. YS Librarian said...

My mom recently gave me a big box of picture books from when I was a child. I had a LOT of Clifford books. Being born in the 80s, I had the edition of Clifford's Halloween with the, ah, "update". I had totally forgotten about this until I read it to my kids! Yikes! Needless to say, I went ahead and discreetly pitched it. I'll try to find a copy for us to read at home that has the zebra instead.

I also happen to be the selector of children's holiday books at my public library. [as an aside, your blog has been SO helpful as I've gradually worked to de-colonialize the Thanksgiving books! It's still a work in progress, but it's much better than it was when I inherited the collection!] I realized AFTER reading Clifford's Halloween to my kids that I had just purchased replacements of this book for our collection. I thought, "crap... can I justify weeding brand-new books that I literally just purchased?" (I mean, I've done it before, but it still feels like I'm throwing the library's money in the garbage). Fortunately, after I panicked and ran to the stacks to page through the book, I saw... Clifford dressed as a zebra. Phew! Looks like I managed to order the "Hardcover Vintage Edition" mentioned in a post above.

I wonder if Scholastic decided to issue this vintage edition to quietly phase out the 1986 version? Weird that the book seemed to regress in terms of racial sensitivity, and in a way that was just so... unnecessary. I would have thought for sure that a book from the 80s would be the one *correcting* racism from the 60s, so it's strange that it's the other way around!

I'm glad Scholastic has at least reissued the 1966 version, although it makes no mention of *why* they did this (at least not on the page on our vendor's website). Also, the other version is still available to purchase (again, at least on our vendor's website), so who knows!

Regardless of whatever Scholastic is doing, it's still great that you shined a light on this Debbie, for so many reasons! Thank you!

Terry said...

Thank you for this! I have the Indian Chief version and use it as an example of the systemic racism that I grew up with, and what to look out for in children's books. I had NO idea about the history of this book.

Terry Kelly said...

Thank you for this! I have the Indian Chief version and use it as an example of the systemic racism that I grew up with, and what to look out for in children's books. I had NO idea about the history of this book.

Ms. Meghan (GPL staff) said...

Thank you for this! I'm weeding the picture books and missed this one; I usually try and look at the Halloween books closely for just this reason, but missed the one page.