Chronicle Acts To Replace Image in 'The Ultimate Book of Space'

Image of girl having dress lifted by a robot draws criticism, will be removed from future reprints.
Girls in STEM remains a hot topic in publishing, and any books that encourage or show girls participating in STEM activities are typically well received. Recently, however, one such book gained attention for the wrong reasons.

Original image in
'The Ultimate Book of Space'

In The Ultimate Book of Space (Twirl, 2016), the illustrator has drawn a young girl building a rocket, but a robot is lifting the back of her dress. The image was brought to the attention of Debbie Reese, publisher and editor of the blog American Indians in Children's Literature, in early January. Reese tweeted the image and tagged Chronicle Books, which is the U.S. distributor of Twirl Books. Twirl is not an imprint of the San Francisco-based publisher, so it is not involved in the day-to-day editorial activity, instead acting in an advisory capacity on book selection and when issues arise. Reese's tweet of this image received a passionate social media response and Chronicle acted on the complaints quickly. "Obviously it was important to have this pointed out and, of course, we absolutely agreed with everybody who was writing in and wanted to address it immediately," says Ginee Seo, executive publishing director of the children’s division at Chronicle Books. "We felt it was our responsibility, even as the distributor of Twirl, to respond appropriately." A few days after her original tweet, Chronicle Books responded to Reese on Twitter, announcing that it would make stickers available with new art to cover the offending image.  

New image for stickers and future reprints

Illustrator Olivier Latyk created a new image (above) for the sticker and future reprints of the book, which is part of the Ultimate Book series from Twirl. Anyone with the book who wants to cover the image can email and request a sticker. A digital copy of the sticker will also be available to download, print and put into the books. When the issue was brought to his attention, Latyk explained that the image must be taken as a whole, according to Seo. The entire image is actually a spread across the title pages (below), not solely the isolated image originally put out on Twitter by Reese. If readers look at the page opposite the offending artwork, they will see another young girl of color with a remote control in her hand, controlling the robot, Latyk pointed out. He said he drew them as sisters with one playing a trick on the other. "First of all, we don’t know it’s her sister," Seo says. "The illustrator knows, but we don’t know. Regardless, this is not anappropriate image. We explained that to the illustrator." The book, originally published in French, was translated and published in English in October 2016. Chronicle had not received any complaints until now, according to Seo. "I think possibly there are so many images on that spread maybe if people saw it, their eyes [may have] skimmed over it in the same way other people’s eyes skimmed over it when they were looking at it before it went to press," says Seo, who notes that Twirl has a U.S. editor who must have missed it as well. "But I think now, rightly, there’s a heightened awareness about all kinds of imagery having to do with girls."  
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We in France remain very grateful for American sacrifice and assistance during the Second World War, but American morality continues to puzzle. We French and French speaking people of the world of all ages have enjoyed and laughed at this image because of how it reflects a funny reality of childhood. Somehow when it crosses to America it is objectionable to a certain moral faction that demands a fig leaf for it, and gets it. Very strange.

Posted : Jan 14, 2018 09:43

Christopher Franceschelli

Perhaps one clue to the confounding change of perception which may occur when an image travels from the Old World to the New may be found in the sage analysis of another Frenchman almost two hundred years ago. Alexis de Tocqueville, returning from an 1831 trip to the United States whose purpose was to visit prisons and penitentiaries, commented: “ . . . methinks I see the destiny of America embodied in the first Puritan who landed on those shores.”

Posted : Jan 14, 2018 09:43




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