Council under fire as it swaps library bear for gender-neutral alien

Council comes under fire for replacing story-telling library bear with gender-neutral dungaree-clad rainbow alien using they and them pronouns

  • Hertfordshire Council has introduced Tala, a colourful alien from outer-space
  • The council hopes Tala will encourage more families to visit its libraries
  • But some have slammed the council saying the children are too young for them
  • The council says any suggestion Tala is being used to push any ‘ideology’ is false 

A council has come under fire after it replaced its library story-time telling bear with a gender-neutral rainbow alien that is neither female nor male, after campaigners incorrectly claimed the alien was trans and the policy was an effort to push ‘gender ideology’.

Hertfordshire Council says Tala the Storyteller is a ‘bright, vibrant creature’ that will capture the imagination of toddlers and babies, and confirmed they will be referred to using they/them pronouns.

Tala is a new mascot for a series aimed at babies and toddlers and will also take over from Bookstart Bear at reading events for kids at the county’s 46 libraries. Bookstart Bear is being withdrawn nationally, according to the council.

The character is ‘the star of Hertfordshire libraries’ new promotion My Firsts to inspire families with babies and young children to visit the library regularly,’ according to a council spokesperson.

Tala, a colourful cartoon-like character, will take over from Bookstart Bear at Rhyme Time – a story-telling event at local libraries aimed at babies and young children up to the age of five-years-old.

A picture of the alien also appears on personalised library cards for those under five on their first trip to a Hertfordshire library.

Reaction to the new character on libraries’ Facebook pages was positive, with parents describing the character as a ‘cutie’. 

But high-profile campaigners on gender issues such as Maya Forstater have claimed the replacement of the bear is a ‘trans’ issue.

Tala is described as a ‘bright, vibrant creature’ that will capture the imagination of toddlers and babies – and as an alien, is neither male or female

Tala will take over from Bookstart Bear (pictured) in Hertfordshire after being designed based on children’s own drawings

Ms Forstater, who won a case against her previous employer for unfair dismissal over her views on transgender people.

She tweeted: ‘A mother with her baby daughter at Hitchin Library Rhyme time aimed at 0-5 year olds messaged me.

‘Bookstart Bear has been retired and replaced with Talia, a ‘trans’ bear, with they/them pronouns.’

‘I cannot express how upset I feel. Why do children need this?’

In another tweet she wrote: ‘Why is Herts County Council promoting gender ideology to under 5s? This is indoctrination in a belief system.’ 

But libraries in the county were quick to hit back, with Hitchin Library writing: ‘Just to confirm – Tala isn’t trans, they are an alien.’

It added: ‘Tala is a storytelling alien from outer space, so neither male or female.’ 

A spokesperson confirmed the ‘other-wordly’ beast uses gender-neutral language, but denied claims Tala was trans.

A spokesperson for Hertfordshire Council said: ‘Tala is not ‘trans’ and any suggestion that the character is would be grossly misleading and wildly inaccurate.

‘Tala is a fictional character, which is clearly based on an other-worldly creature to capture the imagination of children and young people using Hertfordshire’s libraries.

‘In the absence of a gender for this alien creature, we simply use gender neutral language when talking about them to the public.’

Tala’s creators Emma Phillips and Eva Povey said: ‘What inspired us most was the children’s own designs at our workshops in the libraries.

‘They helped us to understand what children liked best in a creature.

‘We hope that families love Tala as much as we loved creating them.’

But some families were not so happy with the replacement, claiming their children were too young to understand the gender-neutral language.

Local Colin Wight said: ‘How do you get to believing children need to be introduced to this [that transgender people exist] at zero-five?

‘I really feel for parents today. It’s indoctrination.’

Another raged: ‘Babies and young children do not need to be told these things. This is now just grooming.’

One said: ‘Why are they being allowed to do this?

‘They have no authority. Parents and sensible staff need to call it out.’

Others on social media rushed to the council’s defence, however. 

One person wrote: ‘It’s a creature, designed by children. It has green skin. For heaven’s sake.’

Another said: ‘It’s called Tala and there is no mention of it being trans on the website. 

‘It’s unaggressively gender non-specific, as far as I can see.’ 

A spokesman for Hertfordshire County Council added: ‘Any suggestion that Tala is being used to push any ideology other than a love of reading is completely misleading.

‘Following the national withdrawal of Bookstart Bear by BookTrust, a new mascot for Hertfordshire libraries Tala the Storyteller was created.

‘Tala is a fictional, other-worldly creature used to capture the imagination of children and young people.’

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