NEW YORK (AP) — Scholastic is pulling a new picture book about George Washington and his slaves amid objections it sentimentalizes a brutal part of American history.

“A Birthday Cake for George Washington” was released Jan. 5 and had been strongly criticized for its upbeat images and story of Washington’s cook, the slave Hercules and his daughter, Delia. Its withdrawal was announced Sunday.

“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can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn,” the children’s publisher said in a statement released to the AP.

The book, which depicts Hercules and Delia preparing a cake for Washington, has received more than 100 one-star reviews on Amazon.com. As of Sunday evening, only 12 reviews were positive. The book also set off discussions on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere on social media.

While notes in “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” from author Ramin Ganeshram and illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton had pointed out the historical context of the 18th century story and that Hercules eventually escaped, some critics faulted Ganeshram and Brantley-Newton for leaving out those details from the main narrative.

“Oh, how George Washington loves his cake!” reads the publisher’s description of the story. “And, oh, how he depends on Hercules, his head chef, to make it for him. Hercules, a slave, takes great pride in baking the president’s cake. But this year there is one problem — they are out of sugar.”

The trade publication School Library Journal had called it “highly problematic” and recommended against its purchase. Another trade journal, Kirkus Reviews, had labeled the book “an incomplete, even dishonest treatment of slavery.”

In a Scholastic blog post from last week, Ganeshram wrote that the story was based on historical research and meant to honor the slaves’ skill and resourcefulness.

“How could they smile? How could they be anything but unrelentingly miserable?” Ganeshram wrote. “How could they be proud to bake a cake for George Washington? The answers to those questions are complex because human nature is complex. Bizarrely and yes, disturbingly, there were some enslaved people who had a better quality of life than others and ‘close’ relationships with those who enslaved them. But they were smart enough to use those ‘advantages’ to improve their lives.”

Sunday’s announcement comes amid an ongoing debate about the lack of diversity in publishing, although the collaborators on “A Birthday Cake” come from a variety of backgrounds. Ganeshram is an award-winning journalist and author born to a Trinidadian father and Iranian mother and has a long history of food writing. Her previous works include the novel “Stir It Up” and the nonfiction “FutureChefs.”

Brantley-Newton, who has described herself as coming from a “blended background — African American, Asian, European, and Jewish,” has illustrated the children’s series “Ruby and the Booker Boys” among other books. The editor was Andrea Davis Pinkney, also an author who in 2013 won a Coretta Scott King prize for African-American children’s literature.

The pulling of the Washington book also recalls a similar controversy from last year. “A Fine Dessert,” written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, was criticized for its cheerful depiction of a 19th century slave mother and daughter as they prepared a blackberry recipe. Jenkins apologized, saying that her book, which she “intended to be inclusive and truthful and hopeful, is racially insensitive.” (“A Fine Dessert,” released by the Random House imprint Schwartz & Wade, remains in print).

Copies of “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” were not easy to find even before Scholastic’s decision. The print edition on Amazon.com, ranked No. 13.202 earlier Sunday, was listed as shipping within “2 to 4 weeks.” Several Barnes & Noble stores in Manhattan did not have the book in stock. Scholastic spokeswoman Kyle Good said she could not provide an immediate reason for delays in the book’s availability.

Also On HuffPost: 

16 Books On Race That Every White Person Should Read Right Now

16 Books On Race That Every White Person Should Read Right Now

1
of
16
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs
This moving biography recounts the life of Robert Peace, a young man who escaped the streets of Newark, New Jersey, to attend Yale University — only to lose his life after graduating.

“But a deeper transition affected people of color in this dazed context. Before course selections and extra-curricular sign-up sheets, before bags could even be unpacked in rooms, black students had to situate themselves within their own race. The process was complicated, conflicting, usually silent, highly fraught, and wholly invisible to their white classmates. Most of whom had never actively had to consider the role of race in their lives.”

Simon and Schuster
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs
This moving biography recounts the life of Robert Peace, a young man who escaped the streets of Newark, New Jersey, to attend Yale University — only to lose his life after graduating.

“But a deeper transition affected people of color in this dazed context. Before course selections and extra-curricular sign-up sheets, before bags could even be unpacked in rooms, black students had to situate themselves within their own race. The process was complicated, conflicting, usually silent, highly fraught, and wholly invisible to their white classmates. Most of whom had never actively had to consider the role of race in their lives.”

Simon and Schuster
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The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander
Scholar and activist Michelle Alexander examines the impact of law enforcement and mass incarceration on race relations in present-day America.

“Arguably the most important parallel between mass incarceration and Jim Crow is that both have served to define the meaning and significance of race in America. Indeed, a primary function of any racial caste system is to define the meaning of race in its time. Slavery defined what it meant to be black (a slave), and Jim Crow defined what it meant to be black (a second-class citizen). Today mass incarceration defines the meaning of blackness in America: black people, especially black men, are criminals. That is what it means to be black.”

The New Press
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The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
One of James Baldwin’s most important book of essays,The Fire Next Timeexplores themes of race, religion and identity.

The American Negro has the great advantage of having never believed the collection of myths to which white Americans cling: that their ancestors were all freedom-loving heroes, that they were born in the greatest country the world has ever seen, or that Americans are invincible in battle and wise in peace, that Americans have always dealt honorably with Mexicans and Indians and all other neighbors or inferiors, that American men are the world’s most direct and virile, that American women are pure. Negroes know far more about white Americans than that; it can almost be said, in fact, that they know about white Americans what parentsor, anyway, mothersknow about their children, and that they very often regard white Americans that way. And perhaps this attitude, held in spite of what they know and have endured, helps to explain why Negroes, on the whole, and until lately, have allowed themselves to feel so little hatred. The tendency has really been, insofar as this was possible, to dismiss white people as the slightly mad victims of their own brainwashing.

The Library of Congress
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Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Toni Morrison has described this debut book from Ta-Nehisi Coates as a “required reading.” In the form of a letter to his teenaged son, Coates distills what it means to be black in America today.

“But all our phrasingrace relations, racial chasm, racial justice, racial profiling, white privilege, even white supremacyserves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth. You must never look away from this. You must always remember that the sociology, the history, the economics, the graphs, the charts, the regressions all land, with great violence, upon the body.”

Spiegel & Grau
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To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Published in 1960, this novel about a white lawyer defending a black boy falsely accused of raping a white woman takes on a whole new meaning in the wake of the release of Harper Lee’s follow up,Go Set A Watchman.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Grand Central Publishing
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Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, by Bell Hooks
For the reader who wants to learn more about black feminism,Ain’t I A Woman is considered one of the most important and comprehensive works on how sexism and misogyny specifically affects women of color.

“While it is in no way racist for any author to write a book exclusively about white women, it is fundamentally racist for books to be published that focus solely on the American white woman’s experience in which that experience is assumed to be the American woman’s experience.”

South End Press
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Citizen, by Claudia Rankine
PoetClaudia Rankine meditates on police brutality, racial fatigue, depression and the denigration of black bodies.

“because white men can’t
police their imagination
black men are dying”

Penguin
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Negroland: A Memoir, by Margo Jefferson
Margo Jefferson shares a bold and thought-provoking memoir on her upbringing as the daughter of black socialites in 1960s Chicago.

“Privilege is provisional. Privilege can be denied, withheld, offered grudgingly and summarily withdrawn. Entitlement is impervious to the kinds of verbs that modify privilege. Our people have had to work, scrape for privilege, gobble it down when those who would snatch it away werent looking. Keep a close watch.”

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Welcome to Braggsville, by T. Geronimo Johnson
This darkly comic debut novel is about four University of California, Berkeley students from different backgrounds who decide to protest a Civil War reenactment.

“The table was shocked. The entire class in fact. Theyd heard tell of Civil War reenactments, but they were still occurring? The War Between the States was another time and another country. As was the South. Are barbers still surgeons? Is there still sharecropping? What about indoor plumbing?”

William Morrow
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The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison’s first novel perfectly captures the effects of racism and colorism, telling the story of an 11-year-old black girl with low self-esteem who prays desperately for her eyes to become blue.

“You looked at them and wondered why the were so ugly; you looked closely and could not find the source. Then you realized that it came from conviction, their conviction. It was as though some mysterious all-knowing master had given each one a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had each accepted it without question. The mast had said, ‘You are ugly people.’ They had looked about themselves and saw nothing to contradict the statement; saw, in fact, support for it leaning at them from every billboard, every movie, every glance. ‘Yes,’ they had said. ‘You are right.'”

Vintage
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Race Matters, by Cornel West
Still considered one of activist Cornel West’s most important books,Race Mattersbluntly takes on everything from affirmative action, to black crime, to religion within the black community — and what solutions, if any, there are.

“We indeed must criticize and condemn immoral acts of black people, but we must do so cognizant of the circumstances into which people are born and under which they live. By overlooking these circumstances, the new black conservatives fall into the trap of blaming black poor people for their predicament. It is imperative to steer a course between the Scylla of environmental determinism and the Charybdis of a blaming-the-victims perspective.”

Vintage
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Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
In this seminal 1952 novel, an unnamed narrator recounts his epic life-story, from his coming-of-age in a rural Southern town, to his migration to the violent streets of Harlem.

“I am an invisible man. No I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe: Nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms.I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids- and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me.”

Penguin
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The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
Beatty infuses comic humor and biting political commentary into this racial satire about a modern-day slave owner.

“Silence can be either protest or consent, but most times its fear.”

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
This is the true story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman whosecells from cervical cancer have been used by scientists for developing advances in everything from cloning, gene mapping, cancer treatment and polio vaccines.

“Ive tried to imagine how shed feel knowing that her cells went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to human cells in zero gravity, or that they helped with some of the most important advances in medicine: the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization. Im pretty sure that shelike most of uswould be shocked to hear that there are trillions more of her cells growing in laboratories now than there ever were in her body.”

Crown Publishing Group
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"Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?", by Beverly Daniel Tatum
Through research and case studies psychologist Beverly Daniel Tatum confronts the subtle ways in which racism dictates the ways both white and non-white people navigate the world.

“It is important to understand that the system of advantage is perpetuated when we do not acknowledge its existence.”

Basic Books
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Slavery by Another Name, by Douglas A. Blackmon
WriterDouglas A. Blackmon exposes the horrific aftermath of the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery, when thousands of black people were unfairly arrested and then illegally “sold” into forced labor as punishment.

“When white Americans frankly peel back the layers of our commingled pasts, we are all marked by it. Whether a company or an individual, we are marred either by our connections to the specific crimes and injuries of our fathers and their fathers. Or we are tainted by the failures of our fathers to fulfill our national credos when their courage was most needed. We are formed in molds twisted by the gifts we received at the expense of others. It is not our ‘fault.’ But it is undeniably our inheritance.”

Random House
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