$300 “Gender-Swap” Kid’s Writing Prize Sparks International Furore Over “Moral and Educational Appropriateness”

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ChildrenÂ?s novelist and Web master, R.J. Nimmo, today refused to bow to calls for an educational prize to be withdrawn by what he calls Â?the worryingly narrow-minded mentality of a conservative moral minorityÂ?

An unexpected backlash against what is intended to be a bi-annual, $300 writing prize designed to focus children on gender awareness will not result in the prize being withdrawn, with the winners being announced as planned in September 2005.

Author of “The Ancient Egyptian Ennead”, the latest young adult fantasy novel in his “Tales of the Mustard Twins” series, R.J. Nimmo, who is hosting the prize through his author-expert Web site http://www.coolkidzread.com says the controversy is a “gale force 9 storm in a particularly dainty, Japanese porcelain teacup.”

Nimmo, whose innovative author-expert Web site is a fun and educational portal for parents, educators and children says to change his plans for the prize would mean capitulating to what he calls an “inverted moral minority” that he claims is “merely spouting the worst kind of patronising, spuriously secular piffle.”

The strong words come after Nimmo’s Web site was flooded with a series of ranting emails after the contest was publicised recently in several prominent daily and weekly newspapers.

Nimmo says: “Curiously, many of these emails seem to have originated from either the same writer, or several contributors all with an identically lazy grammatical style. It does not faze me and will not change my plans. I have many more emails on file from parents and educators who are grateful to me for focussing kids on an important issue – that of gender equity in books and stories intended for them.”        

Magically Changing “Harry” to a “Harriet”

Nimmo, whose books follow the adventures of 12-year-old telekinetic identical twin female heroes, says he believes the same fraternity of what he terms “self-appointed, misguided moral guardians” who claim Harry Potter is “glamorising” witchcraft are responsible for this latest attack.

Nimmo says: “It stands to reason; the opening paragraph of the press article that reputedly caused this rather misdirected wave of offence humorously jests that for Harry Potter to be eligible to enter the contest he would ‘need some spell to change himself into a Harriet’. Think about it: witchcraft AND gender re-assignment in a kid's contest; it was bound to spark one almighty furore in certain quarters, though that was never my intention.”

The writing prize is, according to Nimmo, meant to promote gender equity and an appreciation of the role gender plays in growing and learning.

“This particular irate contributor only has to review the articles on my Web site; they couldn’t be clearer about the ‘appropriateness’ of my intentions, which are to encourage through my contest an awareness of the lessons acquired from the kinds of books, stories and entertainments that we are all exposed to as kids."

For more information about the author, his books, contest and Web site:

Young adult and children’s entertainment expert, R.J. Nimmo is the author of "The Ancient Egyptian Ennead", the latest young adult fantasy novel to be published in the 6-book "Mustard Twins" series. He has been featured in national and daily newspaper articles, discussing the influences of popular entertainment on children and young adults.

For contest details http://www.coolkidzread.com/kids.htm

To make your own mind up about the offending article read it here http://www.coolkidzread.com/press.htm

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R. J. Nimmo