NLB removes Chinese-language children book for review after library user complains it is racist

The picture book Who Wins? by Wu Xing Hua was published in 2018 in Singapore by Marshall Cavendish Education. PHOTO: UMM YUSOF/FACEBOOK

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

In response to queries from The Straits Times, a spokesman for NLB said on Sunday (July 19) 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 evening 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.

"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.

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