Saying Goodbye to ‘The Cat in the Hat’

Victoria Bhegani
4 min readMar 31, 2021

When my oldest son was a year-and-a-half his favorite book was ‘The Cat in the Hat.’ Sitting in a rocking chair in his second story room in East Vancouver we’d read it and look down at the cherry blossoms that lined the street below us. Despite his being young and the book being long, he’d still every time I opened its covers. To me, the picture book felt almost sacred. It was like a kind of gateway- the first real ‘story, story’ my son could dive into, understand, and love.

Fast forward five years later. We’d had another child, moved, and ‘The Cat in the Hat’ now sat on this child’s bookshelf in our new home in Seattle. It was 2018, and like some other White people in the US, I was thinking and reading, and talking more about race than I’d ever done before. One day I read an article and learned that the character of the cat in ‘The Cat in the Hat’ is actually a representation of a Black minstrel. When this cat comes into a White family’s house, he comes in for the purpose of entertaining them. He acts mischievously, making a mess, is reprimanded by the White boy, cleans up his mess, and then finally leaves.

When I looked at the story again after reading the article, it no longer felt playful or charming. It felt racist. I’d like to say that the next thing I did was take decisive actin - that I knew exactly what to do with this beloved, dog-eared picture book that I’d read to my children at least a hundred times. I didn’t though. At first, I didn’t do much of anything. I felt conflicted and asked myself questions I had trouble answering. I wanted to talk to my kids about racism in the book, but how would I do it? Would my three-year-old even understand me? And what should I do with the book itself? I’d never gotten rid of a book before- at least one I didn’t want to be donated. I’d always felt that children’s books with racist representations were a useful way for kids to learn about racism if they were read critically, with adult support. I’d recently read ‘The Little House on the Prairie’ with my older son like this, and we’d looked at the negative representations of Native Americans in the story. But ‘The Cat in the Hat’ was meant for very young children. My three-year-old son was too young to critically understand racist images and stories, or probably to even grasp what representation even meant. And if this was the case, if he…

Victoria Bhegani

Freelance editor and writer based in Seattle with a background in post secondary teaching and moving to different countries.