Fur flies at green book awards

26th April 1996 at 01:00
Children's books on the environment are full of furry rainforest animals and short on a balanced view of the world. They show conservationists constantly at war with big companies and read like fundamentalist religious tracts, said author Susan Hill, announcing the decision not to award a Pounds 2,000 prize for children's books at an award ceremony in London.

Her comments must have been a refreshing change from the usual barrage of earthy criticism for the conservation award's sponsors - multinational oil company BP.

There had already been red faces when Greenpeace, the environmental pressure group, withdrew its entry - which had been included in the competition without its knowledge.

"Conservation is too often equated with furry animals and rainforest creatures," Ms Hill told the audience. "The teaching of environmental issues in many children's books is so simplistic that it has more to do with fundamentalist religions than a balanced world."

Anyone with green views is seen to be wearing a halo, and the implication is that they are at war with the corporate world, she said. "This kind of oversimplified, unreal fantasy should come to an end."

Organisers of the competition were later at pains to point out that all four shortlisted books were commended even though none was good enough to receive the prize, and that Ms Hill's comments did not apply to them.

But Philippa Codd of Kingfisher books, which had two entries shortlisted, said: "Our authors felt insulted. The comment that these books are unrealistic is nonsense. One of our entries gives lots of practical advice about recycling. "

The Kingfisher books were Rubbish and Recycling by Rosie Harlow and Sally Morgan and Angel Falls, a South American Journey by Martin and Tanis Jordan. The other shortlisted books were Rainforest by Judy Allen and John Butler, published by Walker Books and Sainsbury's, and Billy Rubbish by Alexander McCall Smith, published by Methuen.

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