In a sweeping move of resistance that surely won’t harm school children in the process, a Massachusetts elementary school librarian turned down First Lady Melania Trump’s book donations because they were too cliché.
Melania sent Dr. Seuss books over to Cambridgeport Elementary School as part of National Read a Book Day, in which one school from each state receives 10 Dr. Seuss books. The idea was to reward well-performing schools by giving their students more books.
“Getting an education is perhaps the most important and wondrous opportunity of your young lives,” Trump wrote in a letter, according to the Horn Book. “I encourage each one of you to take advantage of these special years while you are in school. Your education will be a lifelong pursuit that will sustain and carry you far beyond your wildest imaginations, if you will let it.”
Several classic Dr. Seuss books were sent over to Cambridge, including The Cat in the Hat, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, and Green Eggs and Ham. But librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro turned down the offer, encouraging Trump to think up some new children’s recommendations with Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden.
“You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliché, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature,” Soeiro wrote for the Horn Book. “As First Lady of the United States, you have an incredible platform with world-class resources at your fingertips… I have no doubt Dr. Hayden would have given you some stellar recommendations.”
Soeiro went on to argue that many Dr. Seuss books have illustrations “steeped in racist propaganda, caricatures, and harmful stereotypes,” instead encouraging the first lady to send in books that are representative of marginalized people. Which is a valid point. After all, Dr. Seuss’ career took off after he worked with the U.S. Army on some pretty sexist and racist cartoons. But not every Dr. Seuss book has racial stereotypes and many of the books sent over by the White House stay away from them.
It also remains unclear why Soeiro would reject the book donations when Cambridgeport Elementary School could donate select books, or give away all 10 to kids in need within the school system. After all, she criticizes Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos for policies that leave underfunded schools further marginalized by the federal government and encourages the department to send books to these districts over ones that show aptitude on standardized testing.
Regardless, it seems turning away the books wasn’t Soeiro’s call to make in the first place. Cambridge’s school district has since stepped in, stating that the librarian is “not authorized to accept or reject donated books on behalf of the school or school district.”
“We have counseled the employee on all relevant policies, including the policy against public resources being used for political purposes,” the school district said, Entertainment Weekly reports.