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Why is The Lorax banned? Popsugar banned books 2020 list surprises

Jack Turley October 1, 2020
why is the lorax banned
Photo by Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Why is The Lorax banned? Popsugar released its banned books 2020 list and it’s full of head-scratching surprises. The Lorax film, starring Zac Efron and Danny De Vito, maybe. But why is The Lorax banned in its children’s book form? And what does Dr Seuss have to do with environmental issues? 

Well, it’s complicated.

Photo by Simon Burchell/Getty Images

The book is widely regarded as a fable warning of the human impact on our planet. The Lorax character is Seuss’ personification of environmental activism. 

Dr Seuss described this as his personal favourite among his publications, since it tackles both economic and environmental issues. 

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With a spoiler warning if you’re not familiar with the plot, the Lorax speaks for the “Truffala trees” since they can’t talk to protect themselves. The book’s message is clear, as the tree-felling industrialist “Once-ler” character finds a stone inscribed with the word “UNLESS”. 

At the end of the book – and with a change of heart showing this really must be fiction – the Once-ler concludes the Lorax must have been telling him: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

So why is The Lorax banned? 

Technically, it was banned. If you’re reading from the UK or anywhere in the US you shouldn’t have any issue finding a copy. 

Nevertheless, in 1989 a group of parents in California bought a full-page newspaper ad in which they accused second-grade teachers of brainwashing their children and attempted to censor The Lorax. 

The reason? Logging is one of the largest industries in California. Evidently parents were fearful their kids would start an activist uprising against their tree-felling traditions. 

The result? After parental pressure, The Lorax was banned from the public school in Laytonville. 

A minor ban from the late 1980s might seem a long-forgotten issue. But California was at it again as recently as September (just yesterday!), with classics such as To Kill A Mockingbird and The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn being pulled from the curriculum, according to the National Coalition Against Censorship

Environmental lessons from The Lorax

The author wanted to raise awareness and encourage environmental activism. When The Lorax was banned, charity organisations worldwide saw a marketing opportunity. 

Since its small-town censorship, the book has been utilised by The Climate Reality Project, One Green Planet and many other environmental groups to help spread Seuss’ message of “unless”. Even Mitsubishi has got in on the act, using the story to market its electric cars

Overall, banning The Lorax backfired. This was free, excellent publicity for Dr Seuss. His message of environmental activism lives on, with Extinction Rebellion and other groups protesting louder than ever. 

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J E Turley is a novelist and freelance writer. To read more about his novels, or about living with Crohn’s and Colitis, head to