Black History: Special Delivery!!

“A Birthday Cake For George Washington” was released to the public on January 5, 2016. Since it’s release it has received much criticism for its characterization of Washington’s slave cook, Hercules, and his daughter Delia. Scholastic is now saying that the book may give a “false impression” of slave life and is pulling the book from publication.  In a statement, Scholastic said, “While we have great respect for the integrity and scholarship of the author, illustrator and editor, we believe that, without more historical background on the evils of slavery than this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn.” Earlier in January, the author, shared that the story was written using historical research and was meant to highlight the slaves resourcefulness.

Written by Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, the book details Hercules and Delia preparing a birthday cake for George Washington. The book has received many negative online reviews from the public. Social Media has also been ablaze with criticism of the book.   Author notes in the book do point out the historical context of slavery and also mention that Hercules, eventually escapes. However, critics of the book point out that the historical context could have been shared more prominently as part of the story line of the book. Some trade journals have also weighed in on the book. The School Library Journal calls the book, “highly problematic” and recommends its reader not purchase the book. The Kirkus Reviews trade journal calls the book, “ an incomplete, even dishonest treatment of slavery”.

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