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Shorts shrift

Playboy bunny pencil-cases barely cause parents in Britain to bat an eyelid any more. But families in Canada retain a more innocent view of childhood.

Parents there have organised a campaign against Scholastic, North America's largest supplier of educational books.

The reason? The company sells books inspired by Bratz dolls, the bestselling toys with oversized heads and fashionable clothes.

Susan Linn, a Harvard university psychologist and co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, has complained that the dolls are sexually suggestive, as some wear fishnets, bikinis and mini-skirts.

The Bratz book titles include Dancin' Divas, Catwalk Cuties and Beauty Sleepover Bash, in which NazaliaTM gets "totally bummed" when her friends miss her party.

Vicki Pasternak, director of Scholastic's school book clubs, defended the titles, saying they were "designed to carry the messages of friendship, loyalty and contributing to community".

But Wendy Boyko, the mother of a six-year-old, from Edmonton, Alberta, was unconvinced.

"Perhaps the stories do promote those things," she said. "But if so, why not put them in a tracksuit instead of having them wear mini-skirts, short shorts and tall boots?"

* www.commercialexploitation.org

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