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Dr. Seuss

Oh, the places Dr. Seuss booksellers can go if they make a lot of dough

By JOHN E. BIALAS

It’s a potential boom time for third-party internet sellers of Dr. Seuss books, a theory I base on my Amazon.com research after I read a story at The New York Times website.

Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris wrote the story, published on Thursday, 3-4-21, and the headline is Dr. Seuss Books Are Pulled, and a ‘Cancel Culture’ Controversy Erupts.

The Times story came two days after The Associated Press reported the following:

Six Dr. Seuss books — including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo” — will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy said Tuesday.

That’s the first paragraph of the story, and you can go right here if you would like to read the rest.

The day the story broke was Dr. Seuss’ birthday, also known as Read Across America Day, and the second day of schoolchildren celebrating Dr. Seuss Week.

Our two grandchildren were enthusiastic participants in events at their Catholic school, Nativity Elementary in Biloxi, our 9-year-old grandson wrapping up the week dressed as a notebook-carrying author and his sister, our 5-year-old granddaughter, dressed as an artist.

“No, not an illustrator. Artist,” she said after I asked if she went as an illustrator.

The San Diego-based entertainment company that maintains Dr. Seuss’ legacy marked the birthday with a message I saw on his Instagram, not that he runs it. He was born with the name Theodor Seuss Geisel in 1904 and died in 1991.

The final three words of the message were omitted: “communities and families.” It’s amazing no one at Dr. Seuss Enterprises fixed that.

The Times reported that “the announcement seemed to drive a surge of support for Seuss classics. Dozens of his books shot to the top of Amazon’s print best-seller list; on Thursday morning, nine of the site’s top 10 best sellers were Seuss books.”

I went to Amazon to see that “The Cat in the Hat,” which remains in good graces, was No. 1 and retailed for $5.90, though you could get a used copy for $2.

If you want the original hardcover of “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” through an Amazon third-party seller, you will need to receive 10 or more stimulus checks to pay for it.

The most expensive copy of the book is listed at $10,000 and it’s in very good condition.

Oh, free shipping isn’t offered. You will have to pay $3.99 for delivery.

Just think of the places the seller will go if they get $10,000 plus $3.99.

Perhaps that person will create their own version of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” the last Dr. Seuss book. Published in 1990, it’s about life and its challenges. Imagine the challenge of trying to spend $10,000 plus $3.99. Oh, baby. Sign me up.

Would you pay $10,000 plus $3.99 for the original “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” that includes this illustration?

If you admire the art, you can stay right here and look at it for free or you can send me $10,000 plus $3.99.”

New York Times opinion columnist Ross Douthat, in a provocative piece Saturday, wrote that “a single problematic image seems to be enough to make an entire book disappear: One chopstick-wielding Chinese man in “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” apparently, means the first major work of an American master can’t be published anymore.”

I respectfully disagree with the foundation’s decision. The illustration doesn’t bother me. The cancel culture bothers me. It’s a 2019 term for the practice of damning a person or a work that becomes objectionable, but the mindset has been around a long time.

Anti-fans rejoiced and said good riddance in 1981 to the “Charlie Chan” Chinese detective films, including Number One Son and Number Two Son. Years before that, the Black TV sitcom “Amos ‘n’ Andy” got the gate because of anti-fans. This meant that Kingfish, the series’ most popular character, was also persona non grata.

“Charlie Chan” and “Amos ‘n’ Andy” were considered racist and that led to their demise. The Chinese boy illustration in “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” is considered racist and that led to the book’s demise.

I know racist Asian words, but I haven’t used them as an adult and neither should you. I have a teen memory of the Johnny Rivers 1966 hit “Secret Agent Man” being mocked as “Secret Asian Man.” I hope that funny play on words never gets canceled.

The Dr. Seuss cancellation movement got started in Massachusetts, the center of a 2017 outcry against “Mulberry Street.”

Cambridge Public Schools librarian Liz Phipps Soeiro sparked controversy when she turned down a donation of 10 Dr. Seuss books from then-first lady Melania Trump, sent as part of National Read a Book Day, the Boston Herald reported.

“Open one of his books (If I Ran a Zoo or And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, for example), and you’ll see the racist mockery in his art,” Phipps Soeiro wrote in a letter to Trump.

Also in 2017, three authors protested a since-removed Dr. Seuss Museum Chinese boy mural in Seuss’ hometown of Springfield. The mural was from the “Mulberry Street” illustration.

“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” is the very first Dr. Seuss children’s book, published in 1937, and the 60th-anniversary edition is going for $1,899.

“Mulberry Street” is also one of the six offenders that won’t be published anymore, a designation that has led to inflated prices since Tuesday.

I’ll use one word to describe all the prices I saw for the book, the cheapest listed at $225 (for the 1964 edition). The word is often heard in the Deep South: expansive.

You know what I mean. It’s like, “Damn, that picture book is mighty expansive. The places I could go for that amount.”

Featured image credit: “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” cover, first edition, 1937, Amazon

By John Bialas

I'm John E. Bialas, founder and editor of You Can Learn From Books, and I post reviews, observations, opinions, analysis, humor, satire, views and news, and I share what I learn.

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