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NLB moves Chinese language children’s book to adults’ section after review over racism complaint

SINGAPORE — The National Library Board (NLB) has moved a Chinese language book, which depicts a dark-skinned boy as an aggressive school bully, out of its children’s section after a review.

The picture book features a character named Mao Mao — Chinese for hairy — who has curly hair and a dark appearance, and is an aggressive school bully.

The picture book features a character named Mao Mao — Chinese for hairy — who has curly hair and a dark appearance, and is an aggressive school bully.

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SINGAPORE — The National Library Board (NLB) has moved a Chinese language children’s book, which depicts a dark-skinned boy as an aggressive school bully, out of its children’s section after a review.

The book “Who Wins?” by Wu Xing Hua has instead been placed in the adults’ Family and Parenting sections at libraries. It had come under review in July after a reader complained that the book was racist, and had been temporarily removed from shelves.

The picture book features a character named Mao Mao — Chinese for hairy — who has curly hair and a dark appearance, and is an aggressive school bully.

In a statement released on Monday (Oct 19), the NLB said that the review was conducted in consultation with the Library Consultative Panel.

“Taking into consideration public feedback and the views of the Library Consultative Panel, NLB has decided to move the book to the Family and Parenting section located in the Adults’ Collection of our libraries. 

“Parents and guardians can make use of this book to discuss how children can deal with bullying in schools and correct any potential misunderstandings that children may have,” the spokesperson said.

Responding to TODAY’s queries on the reasons behind their decision on why they have retained the book, but moved it to the adults’ collection, the NLB said that it “recognises that the book’s content could potentially be misunderstood by children”.

“By placing the book in the family and parenting section, parents and guardians can help guide their children on the issues of bullying, and reinforce the importance of harmonious living in a multi-racial community,” the spokesperson said.

The NLB also noted that the Library Consultative Panel consists of 19 members from different backgrounds and interests.

‘ASTOUNDINGLY RACIST’

“Who Wins?”, targeted at children aged seven to nine, was published in 2018 in Singapore by Marshall Cavendish Education.

On July 17, library user Estella Young, 42, took to Facebook under the social media name Umm Yusof, to express her views about the book.

“On Racial Harmony Day, ironically, I borrowed an astoundingly racist local book from the National Library Board, Singapore. The villain is described in explicitly racialised terms, and in contrast to all the other characters who are depicted as fair-skinned,” she wrote.

"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?” she added.

Ms Young later submitted her feedback on the book to the NLB.

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