Scholastic announced on Sunday that it was pulling A Birthday Cake For George Washington, a children's picture book about slaves cheerily making a cake for George Washington, from distribution, to which the world responded, "Wait, how did a book about happy slaves baking a cake for their master get published in the first place?" The book, written by Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, was released by Scholastic on January 5 and quickly garnered over 100 one-star reviews on Amazon while also becoming the "#1 Best Seller in Children's Colonial American Historical Fiction." Must not be a whole lot of competition in that category.
The book, which was deemed "highly problematic" by trade publication School Library Journal, tells the story of George Washington's "head chef," a slave named Hercules, planning to make a cake for Washington's birthday with his daughter Delia, but running into one major problem—they were out of sugar! Which, if you'll remember, was always a huge issue for American slaves, as well as, you know, all the other TERRIBLE, AWFUL, INHUMANE things they routinely endured that the book did not so much go into.
Ganeshram wrote a blog post in which he said the book was based on historical research, and was meant to honor the slaves' resourcefulness and give adults an opening into discussing the complicated topic of slavery with kids.
The publisher issued a statement saying “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can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn.” Oh, you think?