Friend of Tortoise Exclusive

Five get censored: is children’s literature really that bad?

This is a newsroom ThinkIn. In-person and digital-only tickets are available.

This event is exclusive to Friends of Tortoise

Say what you like about screen-addiction, but books continue to play a huge role in sparking children’s imagination and shaping their worldview. Many classic children’s authors – Enid Blyton, Dr Seuss, J.M . Barrie – have been criticised for containing, and in some cases have re-written to eliminate, cultural references that offend modern values. But the scandals and offence is not consigned to the classics. David Walliams, who has sold over 37million children’s novels, picture books and short story collections, has been criticised for classism and fat shaming. Recent research has highlighted damaging gender stereotypes in the top 100 kids’ picture books – from The Gruffalo to Dear Zoo. Should children’s books be subject to such stringent controls? How worried should we be about the effect popular children’s books are having on our kids? Or are we over-thinking this – to a six year old, can’t a cat in a hat be just that?


A Song of Gladness © 2021 Michael Morpurgo and Emily Gravett – Two Hoots/Macmillan Children’s Books

editor and invited experts

Matt d’Ancona
Editor and Partner

Michael Morpurgo OBE
Author, poet and playwright who is known best for his children’s novels. Morpurgo was also the Children’s Laureate from 2003 to 2005

Karen Coats
Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for Research in Children’s Literature at the University of Cambridge

Dr Alice Curry
Founder & CEO of Lantana