OUP responds to Biff, Chip and Kipper book 'cottaging' controversy

Publisher says its books ‘are created with utmost thought and consideration’, after Twitter user highlights apparently dubious scene

Oxford University Press has moved to reassure parents that its books “are created with the utmost thought and consideration” following a social media storm over an apparent cottaging scene in a Biff, Chip and Kipper title.

Earlier this week, Twitter user Ed Brody highlighted the “somewhat dubious scenes spotted in the background of a friend’s 4yo’s school book”. The first image tweeted by Brody, from one of the Oxford Reading Tree’s Biff, Chip and Kipper titles, shows a group of men at the back of the picture discussing something by a bush. The second shows an old woman looking behind the bush and reacting in shock to what she sees.

Somewhat dubious scenes spotted in the background of a friend's 4yo's school book pic.twitter.com/opF9ogsQwO

— Ed Brody (@chiefbrody1984) September 24, 2017

Twitter users responded with other suspicious scenes from the hugely popular learn-to-read range, including a set of building blocks which spell out “hepatitis”, and an image of a “dodge”-looking priest in a changing room.

In a statement, OUP said that it was “aware of the recent Twitter and media coverage referencing the illustrations from two Biff, Chip and Kipper books”.

“We would like to reassure you that our books are created with the utmost thought and consideration. Our stories have been delighting children, parents, and teachers for over 30 years, and have taught millions of children to read here and around the world. We take the utmost care to ensure that our content is age appropriate and would not cause harm or offence to any child who reads our books,” said the publisher.

The image of the startled granny, it said, is taken from the title Pond Dipping. “There are pages missing in the original tweet, which takes the images from Pond Dipping out of context,” said the publisher.

In the missing pages, all sorts of activity appears to be taking place behind the bushes, including two children running away at high speed, some dogs chasing each other, a man carrying a mysterious large bag – and then the startled old woman. It is not immediately clear what has surprised the woman.

Oxford University Press added that the hepatitis reference was removed in 2003 “as soon as it was drawn to our attention”, and said that the illustrator of the title, Alex Brychta, was not available for comment.

Members of the public were quick to share other images of apparently inappropriate moments in children’s books online, including a line from the “That’s Not My …” series of board books for infants: “That’s not my princess, her fan is too fluffy”, Where’s Wally?, and the line “Do you like it / In your face / Yes! / I like it any place” from the picture book Snow.

I noticed this as a kid in 'Where's Waldo' pic.twitter.com/uDFs27ZL0f

— tthac843 (@tthacker85) September 25, 2017


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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