Local bookstores sell out of Dr. Seuss titles after 6 books discontinued for 'hurtful' depictions

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Posted at 10:15 PM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 22:34:09-05

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Five-dollar children’s books are now selling for upwards of $1,000 online.

The Book Owl used bookstore in Portsmouth only charged around $5 — a steal for some Dr. Seuss books that are now in high demand.

“I saw their hands. It was a blur, but I saw. It was amazing; they’d be really good in Vegas - quick hands,” said owner Nelson Velez.

It was an unexpectedly busy day for an otherwise quiet bookstore. At 10 a.m., there were 12 Seuss books sitting on the shelf. By 11 a.m., there were none.

“They were specifically asking for Dr. Seuss right off the bat — ‘Do you have any? I don’t care what title,’” said Velez.

The frenzy for the famed children’s author was brought on by a big announcement from Dr. Seuss Enterprises thatit will stop publishing six titles because the books portray people in ways that are hurtful.
The books named are:

  • "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street"
  • "If I Ran the Zoo"
  • "McElligot's Pool"
  • "On Beyond Zebra!"
  • "Scrambled Eggs Super!"
  • "The Cat's Quizzer"

“Imagine my surprise when I had all these calls ringing off the hook and people coming into the store in desperate panic to get Dr. Seuss books.”

Carla David say she’s frustrated and just wants to be able to share her childhood literary favorites with her own grandchild after missing out on all the Dr. Seuss books at Book Owl.

“I’ve read these books, and I honestly don’t see [the issue]. But then I’m not coming from that direction, you know what I mean,” David, who is white, explained while discussing people of color could have a different opinion.

Olivia Hasan, children’s librarian at the Hampton Public Library, points to examples of how a Chinese character is depicted in “And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street.”

“They’ve got a pointy hat; they’ve got a bowl of rice, chopsticks, and he describes their eyes in a way that is not accurate to the community,” said Hasan.

As Hasan explains, neither is the depiction of an African character in “If I Ran the Zoo.”

“It has the grass skirt; it has all of these depictions that show the stereotypes that we often try to avoid in our field."

Hasan says a young mind can be negatively impacted by inaccurate stereotypes like the ones seen in some Dr. Seuss books.

“You start to see yourself in a way you’ve never seen yourself. You start to question, ‘Why am I depicted this way? Is this how my family is viewed?’”

Instead, Hasan suggests books written by people of color about their own communities that give people the opportunity to see themselves celebrated. She mentions titles like “Perfect Bao” by Amy Wu and “Hair Love” by Matthew A. Cherry.