Children's favourite books removed from British library shelves after parents complain they’re 'offensive'
By JR on Thursday, April 26, 2012
Public libraries have had to withdraw dozens of long-standing children's favourites after parents complained they were offensive.
Anxious adults have taken action over stories deemed to be racist, blasphemous, violent or otherwise unsuitable, a survey has revealed.
Roald Dahl was among those criticised, with his Revolting Rhymes and Even More Revolting Rhymes singled out over the celebrated author's use of supposedly coarse language.
And while young readers have been enjoying Dahl's satirical fairy tales for decades, even classics such as The Nutcracker and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves were said to be too sinister or frightening for children.
Library staff have had to investigate each of the complaints and have often ended up moving the offending books out of the children's section, or removing them altogether.
Racism was a common cause for concern, with the much-loved Babar and Tintin series accused of exposing children to ethnic stereotypes.
Librarians in East Sussex removed copies of Babar's Travels, in which one of the cartoon elephant's adventures finds him faced with 'savage cannibals'.
Those wishing to borrow it must now order it specially, after staff upheld a complaint that it contained offensive stereotypes of black Africans.
A similar complaint saw staff in Lewisham, London, remove Herge's Tintin in the Congo, while elsewhere the title has been transferred to the adult's section.
Children's author David McKee, creator of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant and Mr Ben, attracted more complaints than any other writer. Parents claimed Tusk Tusk - his book about a dispute between black and grey elephants - was racist, while the wealthy main character of Denver was said to promote the idea of an unfair gap between rich and poor.
Meanwhile, the insults hurled between the characters in Two Monsters - such as 'twit' and 'dumbo' - were thought too aggressive for young ears.
A surprised Mr McKee told the Sunday Telegraph his books were meant to celebrate the differences in society. He said: 'I think the complaints seem to come from the parents rather than the child. 'Children often seem to get the point. It would be rather boring if all books simply started "once upon a time" and ended "happily ever after".'
Nicholas Allan's More and More Rabbits, about two rabbits who can't stop having babies, has been praised for teaching numeracy and broaching the difficult subject of where babies come from.
But librarians in West Lothian pulled the book after one anxious parent said it the content was inappropriate.
The gruesome Horrible Histories series - which seeks to take the stuffiness out of the subject - was said to celebrate and trivialise violence, while one reader feared its sister series Horrible Science would encourage children to carry out dangerous experiments.
Parents worried that titles such as The Big Ugly Monster and the Little Stone Rabbit - in which a lonely monster fashions friends out of stone - would damage children's self-esteem.
And staff in Newcastle library removed Flabby Cat and Slobby Dog from the health and wellbeing section after it was said to give a negative message about obesity.
The survey of 98 library authorities took in more than 300 complaints from the last five years about 'unsuitable, inappropriate or offensive' works. Half of them were about children's books.