Oxford University Press (OUP) has defended itself from criticism after Twitter users pointed out “dubious scenes” in one of its publications, the childrens’ book series Biff, Chip and Kipper.
Social media users have claimed that one of the picture books suggests a sexual encounter behind a bush, in a scene involving three middle aged men.
Suspicion was heightened by a scene in which an elderly lady reacts in shock to what she sees behind the bush.
Some have speculated that the men are ‘cottaging’, a gay slang term for anonymous sex in public places. One Twitter user commented: “Biff and Chip go dogging”.
The controversy began after Ed Brody posted the images in question on his Twitter feed with the caption: “Somewhat dubious scenes spotted in the background of a friend’s 4yo’s school book”.
Brody’s tweet garnered 12,000 likes and nearly 6,000 retweets, despite OUP’s reply that “some of the pages are missing from this title!”
The controversial images led online users to post other suspect images from the Biff, Chip and Kipper series online. These included a child spelling ‘hepatitis’ out of building blocks, and a Priest in a girls’ changing room.
OUP defended the popular children’s books in a statement, remarking it was: “aware of the recent Twitter and media coverage referencing the illustrations from two Biff, Chip and Kipper books.
“We would like to reassure you that our books are created with the utmost thought and consideration.
“We take the utmost care to ensure that our content is age appropriate and would not cause harm or offence to any child who reads our books.”
The publisher, a department of Oxford University, added that the so-called ‘sex scenes’ in question were taken from the title Pond Dipping and that “there are pages missing in the original tweet, which takes the images from Pond Dipping out of context”.
OUP added that the hepatitis reference was removed in 2003 “as soon as it was drawn to our attention”
There are over 400 Biff, Chip and Kipper books in the Oxford Read Tree series.
According to the publishers, they are taught in around 80 per cent of British primary schools. The first set of stories was published in 1985.
The books are written by Roderick Hunt, and illustrated by Alex Brytcha. Both have been awarded MBEs for their services to children’s literature in light of the series’ success.
Some Twitter users suggested that the images were fitting entertainment for parents reading the books. One commented: “well, you know… parents have to read these books ENDLESSLY. Might as well put in some easter eggs for them to keep it fun.”
Others, however, were less amused. John Smith wrote: “What sort of twisted halfwit draws this kind of crap in a kids book? What corrupt company thinks it’s fit to print it?” The Biff, Chip, and Kipper series’ books, which were adapted for television in 2000, are now sold as educational literature in 130 countries around the world.