NLB removes children's book for review after 'racist' alert

The National Library Board (NLB) has removed a Chinese-language children's book for review after a reader complained it is racist.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, a spokesman for NLB said on Sunday evening that the board is currently reviewing the book, in view of feedback from its patrons.

The spokesman added: "This will be done in consultation with our Library Consultative Panel, which is an independent and citizen-based panel.

"In line with our established procedures, we have removed all copies of the book from our libraries during the period of review."

Who Wins? by Wu Xing Hua is a picture book that features a "dark-skinned" boy with "oily curly hair" named Mao Mao - Chinese for hairy - who is an aggressive school bully. The book, for children aged seven to nine, was published in 2018 in Singapore by Marshall Cavendish Education.

It is part of a series of five books titled Amazing Adventures Of Pi Pi.

Library user Estella Young, 42, had written a post about it on her Facebook page last Friday under the social media name Umm Yusof.

Describing the book as "astoundingly racist", she noted in the post that the villain was being written about in "explicitly racialised terms, and in contrast to all the other characters who are depicted as fair-skinned".

She added: "What on earth possessed Marshall Cavendish Education to publish a book in which the sole dark-skinned character is irredeemably nasty - especially when his appearance is irrelevant to the plot?"

Ms Young, a freelance writer, told The Straits Times that she had borrowed the book last Thursday from Bedok Library to read to her eight-year-old son, and was shocked while flipping through it at home.

She then submitted feedback to the NLB via its Request for Review of Library Materials service online last Friday.

The National Library Board is reviewing Who Wins? by Wu Xing Hua, part of a series of five books titled Amazing Adventures Of Pi Pi, following a reader's feedback that it is racist.
The National Library Board is reviewing Who Wins? by Wu Xing Hua, part of a series of five books titled Amazing Adventures Of Pi Pi, following a reader's feedback that it is racist. PHOTO: UMM YUSOF /FACEBOOK

 
 

"I don't know how long the review will take, but as long as they're reviewing it, that's a good thing," she said.

Ms Alicia Tan, senior marketing manager at Marshall Cavendish Education, said yesterday that the publisher has received inquiries about the book.

She added: "We are doing our utmost to look into, and resolve, the issue so please allow us some time to check with the relevant parties."

In 2017, the NLB removed a series of Malay-language books for young people from its shelves after a Twitter user shared photos of them.

The Agama, Tamadun Dan Arkeologi (Religion, Civilisation And Archaeology) series was flagged for containing anti-Semitic rhetoric and seemingly glorifying violence in the name of Islam.

The Library Consultative Panel, which consists of members from a cross-section of society, supported the NLB's move to remove the eight books, noting that the series "has the potential of creating religious and racial tensions among readers and the community".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2020, with the headline 'NLB removes children's book for review after 'racist' alert'. Subscribe