Scholastic has pulled a book by “Captain Underpants” author Dav Pilkey that the publisher says “perpetuates passive racism.”
“The Adventures of Ook and Gluk,” published in 2010, served as a spinoff of sorts from his popular “Captain Underpants” children’s series: The two main characters from “Underpants” are listed as the author and illustrator of the book, during which they sought to clear up “science facts” with a story about time-traveling cavemen who train at Master Wong’s School of Kung-Fu.
Pilkey said he created the book to “showcase diversity, equality and non-violent conflict resolution” using “principles found in Chinese philosophy” but had recently been alerted that it “also contains harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery.”
“I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for this,” he wrote Friday in a statement. “It was and is wrong and harmful to my Asian readers, friends and family, and to all Asian people. … I hope that you, my readers, will forgive me, and learn from my mistake that even unintentional and passive stereotypes and racism is harmful to everyone. I apologize, and I pledge to do better.”
The author gave his “full support” to halting distribution of the book beginning last week, Scholastic said in a statement Friday, and the author pledged to donate “all of my advance and royalties” from the book sales to nonprofits including We Need Diverse Books, The AAPI and TheaterWorks USA that “provide free books, art supplies and theater for children in underserved communities; organizations that promote diversity in children’s books and publishing; and organizations designed to stop Asian hatred.”
“Together, we recognize that this book perpetuates passive racism,” Scholastic’s statement added. “We are deeply sorry for this serious mistake.”
The publisher has removed the book from its sites, stopped order fulfillments, “sought a return of all inventory” and says it will “take steps to inform schools and libraries who may still have this title in circulation of our decision to withdraw it from publication.”
Scholastic added: “Throughout our 100-year history, we have learned that trust must be won every day by total vigilance. It is our duty and privilege to publish books with powerful and positive representations of our diverse society, and we will continue to strengthen our review processes as we seek to support all young readers.”
Pilkey is the author of nearly 50 books, the best known of which are from his USA TODAY bestselling series “Captain Underpants,” which follows the story of two young boys who go on adventures to save the world with the help of their grumpy teacher, Mr. Krupp, who transforms into alter ego Captain Underpants at a snap of the fingers. It was made into an animated film in 2017, starring Ed Helms as the eponymous hero.
The decision to pull “Ook and Gluk” comes amid a reckoning in the book industry and beyond for past works that include harmful racist depictions.
More:Dr. Seuss dominates USA TODAY bestseller’s list amid controversy, takes six of Top 10 spots
Six Dr. Seuss books – “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” “If I Ran the Zoo,” McElligot’s Pool,” “On Beyond Zebra!,” “Scrambled Eggs Super!” and “The Cat’s Quizzer” – were pulled from publication because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy announced earlier this month on the late author’s birthday.
“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises told The Associated Press. “Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”