Scholastic is no longer distributing the book “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” because the picture book doesn’t include enough historical context regarding slavery.
The book, written by Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, was criticized for its depiction of slavery.
The book is about Washington’s servants preparing for his birthday celebration. It features a slave named Hercules, who “takes great pride in baking the president’s cake,” according to a description on Amazon.
Scholastic said Sunday that it doesn’t believe the book meets the company’s standards in presenting information to younger children.
“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can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn,” Scholastic said.
Ganeshram defended the book in a post on the Children’s Book Council Diversity website, saying the publication told the story of a real person — Hercules.
“He [Hercules] was a man renowned for his skill; a man respected by President Washington, a man who lived with pride and dignity,” she wrote. “I know these facts from the nearly four years of research I did with the aid of historians, largely, at the National Park Service’s President’s House site in Philadelphia, where my story is set. We know from first-hand accounts that Hercules was famous in his day as a towering culinarian — admired and in-charge, despite his bondage.”
Scholastic said it will accept all returns on the book.