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Fact/Fiction: Do PC campaigners really want to ban a classic kids' book?

Old news, truthfully retold. This week we ask if campaigners really wanted to ban Rod Campbell's classic 'Dear Zoo' because it was sexist.

How was it told.

Rod Campbell’s lift-the-flap classic Dear Zoo has sold more than eight million copies since its release in 1982, thrilling many a child at bedtime.

The colourful animal caper tells the tale of a child who writes to a zoo asking for a pet and is sent creatures ranging from a lion to a snake, finally receiving the perfect pet – a puppy.

But it came under the spotlight of The Sun and the Daily Mail last week, who both reported that campaigners had called for the book to be banned.

The Sun went for “#MEZOO Killjoys brand kids’ animal book Dear Zoo ‘sexist’ because ‘all the animals in it are male”.

The tabloid quoted Let Toys Be Toys (LTBT) campaigner Jess Day, who reportedly said: “All the animals are male. It’s biased. Parents must demand better.”

Add to this a few quotes from parents noting that it was “PC rubbish gone mad” to show the other side and the image of angry mobs clashing was complete.

The Daily Mail was similarly bullish with its headline, “Parents are at war over ‘SEXIST’ British children’s book Dear Zoo – because all the animals are male”.

But does that amount to an angry campaign to ban the book?

Facts. Checked.

Not according to Let Toys Be Toys – once you lift the flap, the stories fall apart.

The campaigners aim to challenge gender stereotypes that they feel are harmful in media consumed by kids as well as toys, books and education. For example, LTBT questions why a Barbie doll or pink-coloured toys are designated for girls while boys get the same treatment for blue toys or an Action Man doll. Instead it asks that kids are allowed to choose.

LTBT has been vociferous with its response – refuting that it called for a ban and asking both The Sun and the Daily Mail to amend or remove the online articles, even suggesting that the former had made up a quote from Day. In fact, LTBT has insisted on social media that it hadn’t thrown its toys out of the pram, adding: “We definitely don’t want it banned, we have copies at home.”

It is true that all the animals in Campbell’s Dear Zoo are male but any campaign for it to be banned is as fictitious as the story.

The roots of the issue can be traced back to an article written by Day on LTBT’s website in January last year, titled “Constructing bias – the wonky world of picture books.” In it, Day uses Dear Zoo as an example of how gender bias can be hard to spot. The Sun has since updated its story with a quote taken from the blog.

Day told The Big Issue that the newspaper had even added a gender to the narrator in their plot summary – despite Scottish writer Campbell not allocating one in the book – ironically proving her point.

“I didn’t even criticise the book in the blog post and I think it’s quite  obvious that I have it back at home,” she said.

“I was using it as an example to illustrate that it took me a long time to even notice that all the characters were male and that is a systemic problem, not about one particular book.

“We are very careful to be a measured and responsible campaign, it’s very important to us, so the stories have been very damaging to us.”

There is no suggestion of a ban and both articles can be considered false.

Worth Repeating

FactFiction-embed

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