Cigar-smoking scarecrow from Gruffalo authors sparks complaints

Outraged parents take to Amazon to leave scathing reviews of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffer's new book

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Upset parents have voiced their concerns over a cigar-smoking character in Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffer’s new book, The Scarecrow’s Wedding.

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Complaints have been flooding in to the reviews section of the Amazon page for The Gruffalo’s authors’ new book. 

The book features a scarecrow who attempts to impress a lady by blowing smoke rings.

 “Why on earth would a children’s book contain even the idea of smoking! Disgusting! I threw the book away, I wouldn’t even sell it as I don’t want other people’s children to read this either,” one reviewer commented.

“It’s a lovely book up until you reach the smoking pages. Even though it makes the point that smoking is a bad idea, it makes me really uncomfortable to see any depiction of it in a children’s book. Wish I’d read it all the way through before showing it to my kids,” another added.

The former Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson, has said she would “never encourage smoking in a children’s book”.

“Reginald Rake is a villain who smokes a cigar and it’s made clear that smoking is bad for you,” she told The Guardian.

Julia’s publisher Scholastic said it had considered carefully whether or not to include the plotline.

“We would absolutely agree that smoking should not be shown as a normal, sensible activity in a children’s book. However, we feel that, in this case, the book really does show smoking in a completely negative light.

“Reginald Rake is quite clearly a bad character; smoking makes him cough and causes a fire, and Betty says categorically that ‘smoking is bad for you’, and that he should be ‘feeling ashamed’,” said the publisher in a statement.

“Clearly, whether or not to depict smoking at all, even in a very critical way, is a judgment call, and we did debate the point at considerable length before going ahead. Our feeling, after much discussion, was that children will inevitably encounter smoking at some stage, as people continue to smoke outside in public places.

“We hope that, by showing smoking in such a negative way, this book might give parents the opportunity to discuss the issue with their children, and reinforce the anti-smoking message.”

What do you think? Should smoking be included in children’s books? Let us know in the comments below…

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