The Tiger Who Came To Tea deserves its place in nursery libraries – Jo Mowat

A major row that put Edinburgh uncomfortably on the pages of the national newspapers recently centred on the charity who took on The Tiger Who Came to Tea.
The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr has been a nursery favourite for years (Picture: John Devlin)The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr has been a nursery favourite for years (Picture: John Devlin)
The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr has been a nursery favourite for years (Picture: John Devlin)

You can picture the meeting; the group wanted to get maximum publicity for their new approved book list by criticising the book for reinforcing patriarchal stereotypes.

Judith Kerr, who wrote Tiger, fled Nazi Germany with her father because she was Jewish. Her father was a theatre critic and writer and had his books burned by the Nazis.

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To use the much-loved Tiger Who Came to Tea to publicise your own list of approved books is either taking a point to utterly distasteful levels or shows the need for further research.

Books are portals to another world. Anyone reading The Tiger Who Came to Tea now would see that the world it depicts is different from the world today.

You can either choose not to read it or use it to start a conversation. Promoting an approved list of books with approved social messages for nursery libraries indicates that other books are not approved.

This is the first step on the road to banning books or restricting access. Is the next step schools? Will the Handmaid’s Tale be unsuitable because it portrays an extreme patriarchal society even if it does so to warn about and explore dystopian ideas.

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Is it the intention that only right-thinking and right speech will be allowed – there’s a book which shows where that leads too.

Books can comfort, entertain, challenge and delight but most of all expand our horizons and understand the world near and far.

The narrower our reading, the narrower our thinking and to seek to restrict the choices of books in nurseries isn’t an answer to anything.

The real shame of this is that the charity carrying out this work is one whose aims all reasonable people would support but after setting approved lists of books and promoting library audits, they’ll struggle to attract that support.

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Fewer books is never the answer – more books so everyone can find something to relate to, be challenged by or delight in is the better way.

Jo Mowat is Conservative councillor for the City Centre ward

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