Story telling

The council is criticized for replacing the library’s storytelling bear with a gender-neutral alien

A council has been slammed after it replaced its library story hour bear with a gender-neutral rainbow alien who is neither female nor male, after campaigners falsely claimed that the outsider was trans and that politics was an effort to push “gender ideology”.

Hertfordshire Council said Tala the Storyteller is a ‘bright and vibrant creature’ who will capture the imaginations of toddlers and babies, and confirmed they will be referred to using their pronouns.

Tala is a new mascot for a series aimed at babies and toddlers and will also take over as Bookstart Bear at children’s reading events at all 46 county libraries. Bookstart Bear is retired nationwide, according to the board.

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

Tala, a colorful cartoon-like character, will take over from Bookstart Bear at Rhyme Time – a storytelling event at local libraries aimed at babies and toddlers up to age five.

A photo of the alien also appears on personalized library cards for under-fives on their first trip to a library in Hertfordshire.

Reaction to the new character on the libraries’ Facebook pages has been positive, with parents describing the character as “cute”.

But high-profile gender activists such as Maya Forstater have claimed the bear replacement is a “trans” issue.

Tala is described as a ‘bright, vibrant creature’ that will capture the imaginations of toddlers and babies – and as an alien she is neither male nor female

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

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

Ms Forstater, who won a lawsuit against her former employer for unfair dismissal because of her views on transgender people.

She tweeted: ‘A mother with her baby girl at the Hitchin Library Rhyme time for children 0-5 years old messaged me.

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

“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?” It is indoctrination into a belief system.

But county libraries were quick to hit back, with Hitchin Library writing, “Just to confirm – Tala is not trans, she’s an alien.”

He added: “Tala is an alien who tells stories from outer space, so neither male nor female.”

A spokesperson confirmed that the “other-worldly” beast uses gender-neutral language, but denied claims that Tala is trans.

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

‘Tala is a fictional character, who is clearly based on an otherworldly creature to capture the imagination of children and young people using Hertfordshire libraries.

“With no gender for this extraterrestrial creature, we’re just using neutral language when talking about it to the public.”

Tala creators Emma Phillips and Eva Povey said: “What inspired us the most were the children’s own creations in our workshops in the libraries.

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

“We hope families love Tala as much as we loved creating them.”

But some families weren’t so happy with the replacement, saying their children were too young to understand the gender-neutral language.

Local Colin Wight said: ‘How do you believe kids 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 don’t need to be told these things. It’s just grooming.

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

‘They have no authority. Parents and sensible staff should call him.

However, others on social media rushed to the council’s defense.

One person wrote: “It’s a creature, designed by children. He has green skin. For God’s sake.’

Another said: “It’s called Tala and there’s no mention of him being trans on the website.

“It’s non-gender-specific aggressiveness, as far as I can tell.”

A Hertfordshire County Council spokesman added: ‘Any suggestion that Tala is being used to promote 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 has been created.

“Tala is a fictional otherworldly creature used to capture the imagination of children and young people.”