SUNDAY TELEGRAPH : 22nd April
From Horrible Histories to Babar the Elephant – the ‘offensive’ children’s books withdrawn by libraries
Alan Gibbons comments:
“As a rule of thumb I tend to be against censorship. Usually, even with controversial books, the common sense of parents, teachers and librarians is enough to ensure that children get all the guidance and protection they need. Though you wouldn’t know it from the howls of ‘PC gone mad’ that greet such stories in the press, many withdrawals of books have been because of pressure from religious groups or puritanical individuals, not from left wing and anti racist groups and individuals. I once had the father of a child, himself a man of the cloth, complain about a satanic book I had read to Y2. It was Meg and Mog! I refused to agree not to read books with witches and said that if he had to, he had the right to send his child to another class while I peddled satanism in infant story time. He didn’t take up the offer.
“There is a real issue with some books, however, when colonial representations of black Africans appear for example. Tintin in the Congo is one notorious example and it makes for very uncomfortable reading for a modern audience. I know of a number of libraries which, while not withdrawing the book, do put a note in it saying some readers may feel upset by negative images that belong to another era when racist stereotypes were common. Other books such as David McKee’s Tusk Tusk have caused controversy with allegations of racism when the author was quite clearly trying to combat racism.
“However much people might like it to be true in the best of all possible worlds, works of literature, even children’s books, are not value-free and will continue to stir up lively passions.”