Florida school district removed 3 ‘Believe It or Not’ books. Ripley shot back.

The Orlando-based entertainment company had a novel response when some of its books were among the 1,600 titles pulled from Escambia County schools.

Tampa Bay Times | By Dewayne Bevil Orlando Sentinel | February 22, 2024

Three “Believe It or Not” publications are on Escambia County’s list of potentially banned books. Ripley’s response: Give away free books to Floridians.

“The very idea of banning these books is worthy of entry to Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Ironically, Escambia County officials are practically authoring our next book for us,” Ryan DeSear, vice president of attraction operations for Orlando-based Ripley Entertainment, said in a news release.

In December, the Escambia County School District revealed the names of more than 1,600 books that were yanked pending investigation. Included were the annuals titled “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! A Century of Strange!” and “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!: Seeing Is Believing,” as well as the company’s 100-year anniversary coffee table book.

Ripley’s publications are primarily filled with brief takes and photos of the world’s oddities.

“Our focus for the last 105 years has always been a lighthearted look at the curiosities that make up society,” DeSear said. “We celebrate uniqueness, a responsibility that we take to heart and will continue to for years to come.”

The company is mailing, free of charge, similar Ripley books to Floridians who fill out an online form. The estimated value is $30. The book giveaway is also happening, while supplies last, at Ripley attractions on Orlando’s International Drive and in St. Augustine and Panama City Beach. Florida ID is required.

“While Ripley’s response to this issue is a bit tongue-in-cheek, we very much encourage all Florida residents to claim their free copy and decide for themselves,” DeSear said.

The company’s latest edition is “Believe It or Not: Level Up,” which has features about Kitten Kay Sera, the “pinkest person in the world,” glow-in-the-dark scorpions, a tribute to Salvador Dali made entirely of dryer lint and an armless French horn player from Germany who plays the instrument with his feet.

To secure a free Ripley book, go to ripleys.com/general/floridabooks.

Among the other books on Escambia’s list were eight dictionaries, biographies (including for Malcolm X, Lady Gaga, Oprah Winfrey), “The Princess Diaries,” “The Adventures and the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes,” books by Anne Frank, Carl Hiaasen, Dean Koontz, Celeste Ng, and 23 works by Stephen King, plus two from Bill O’Reilly.

Officials say the books have been removed from school libraries to make sure they follow the Florida law that restricts public school instruction on reproductive health and related sex topics in sixth through 12th grade. The bill was approved by Gov. Ron DeSantis in May and took effect in July. If any resident alleges a book has pornographic material, the book is pulled from library shelves until a media specialist reviews it.

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