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The Short Shelf Life of ‘A Birthday Cake for George Washington’

Birthday Cake

Released on Tuesday, January 5th, A Birthday Cake for George Washington has been pulled from shelves. Here’s a statement on the decision from publisher Scholastic:


If you haven’t been following the discussion about this book, there’s a good collection of links at American Indians in Children’s literature to get you caught up.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Marilyn Quigley says

    Is this not censorship at the very core? In some people’s eyes, this book is not “fit” for children to read. And perhaps it does give a slanted view of attitudes of slaves; I have not read it. But I would venture to say that most of the people screaming that it’s unfit are EXTREMELY against all forms of censorship. Once a book has been published, it is nothing less than censorship to make sure that people who would like to read it never get that chance.

  2. Crazy.

  3. I don’t understand the haters on this issue. I haven’t read this book yet (I’ve put it on hold at my library) but from the reviews it seems to be not about slavery but a dad and his daughter (slaves yes) who were making a cake. What do the detractors want picture book authors/illustrators to show that would accurately depict the horror of slavery in an age-appropriate way for children?

  4. Allison Williams says

    I’ve been watching Downton Abbey where the servant’s life is controlled by the whims of the lord of the manor. Not slaves, technically, but without the choices and opportunities we have come to expect with freedom. What I observe in that drama is people taking their pleasure where they can get it. Certainly we wouldn’t be happy with the crumbs reserved for these poor souls, but no matter what your state, it is part of the human condition to find happiness somewhere. Without hope there would be no reason to live, yet American slaves did live and survive and eventually triumph. Just as Nana in “Last Stop on Market Street told CJ, “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt,…, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.”
    These naysayers do everyone an injustice — those in the past and readers in the present. Let our children read this, discuss it, argue about it even, but for heaven’s sake, don’t pull it from the bookshelves out of fear that a thought that doesn’t line up with your world view has seen the light of day.

  5. Travis, thank you for linking to Debbie’s discussion; that’s a nicely balanced collection of links she keeps over there. And while I completely understand why others think this is censorship, to me the fact that the publisher is the one doing the pulling makes this something different. It shows me they are trying to right a mistake that they’ve made. (Now, in terms of how they worded their statement… not so great.)