Growing up, back when the Jasper Mall was in its prime, I spent all of my extra time and parents’ money at Waldenbooks.
The book store was a glowing gem in the middle of that mall; the highlight of an after-school journey.
It was an even better adventure when mom and dad let me walk up to Waldenbooks alone while they continued to shop in other stores.
It was here that the Waldenbooks Lady (I can not remember her name), would always greet me with a smile, call me by name and ask how the day had been. Oh, yes, and, she would always ask me what books I was reading that week.
It was here at Waldenbooks that I discovered The American Girls – Addy Walker’s character growing up in the Civil War and Molly McIntire living at the end of the World War II Era and perming her hair. I discovered “The Magic Attic Club” and realized that a book could transport you to a different world. Let’s not forget “The Baby Sitter’s Club” and Stacy’s issues with diabetes. I discovered lots of Dr. Seuss books in the children’s section, laughing my way through “If I Ran a Zoo” and never understanding why Mulberry Street was so long. As I grew older, and my love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer grew, I discovered books related to the television series, even if some of the themes in those books were a little advanced for my fifth-grade mind.
It was here that the Waldenbooks Lady introduced me to all the Harry Potter books. She even made sure when the last book was released to save me a special box that the books were shipped in.
She always asked me what I was reading or interested in. Even if those interests were far ahead of my age or what a parent might or might not approve of, she never turned me away from a book or told me it was too much for me. She was a librarian in her own world – guiding my interests to anything I wanted.
There was never any censorship in that store. Whatever I wanted to look at, I was able to. Whatever I wanted to sit in a corner and read while waiting on my parents to pick me up, she let me. All of these books were just pathways of learning for me that countless other kids that came through the store and did just as I did.
So, you can only imagine how I have felt seeing all the debacles around the Dr. Seuss books. I never once picked up a Dr. Seuss book, both in the bookstore or in the local library, and had the hand of censorship come and snatch the books up so I wouldn’t see anything I shouldn’t. I never read about running a zoo and looked at the images and though the characters depicted racism and stereotypes of people. I never explored Mulberry Street in the corner of that bookstore and thought the people looked outdated. How many Disney movies depict the same characters with the same appearances and same utensils to eat rice?
I’m sorry but this “cancel culture” attitude to get rid of things that offend you just doesn’t fly with me. I have never been offended by a Dr. Seuss book, nor an American Girl book, nor a Harry Potter book – though I’m still sad I’ve not received my letter to Hogwarts.
I’m thankful that I had a Waldenbooks Lady who saw the value in my interests to read and guided me to whatever my flavor of the day book was. I’m even more thankful for institutions of learning, like libraries and even bookstores, that allowed me to discover things on my own. Now that I’m older, I really do appreciate so much more the books of my childhood. And I look forward to being the same type of “Waldenbooks Lady” to other kids who are looking to discover reading wonders on their own, both challenged and non-challenged books. Now, off to read “The Cat’s Quizzler” so that when the Wizard asks me a question from it, I can be ready to answer.
Laura Pitts is a former Daily Mountain Eagle reporter. She now serves as director of the Scottsboro Public Library.