Dougal the Drunk Bear

Dougal the Garbage Dump BearDougal the Garbage Dump Bear

Submitter: We had a lot of parents take this book out and abruptly bring it back the next day. I was curious, so I took a look. At first, the book is pretty cute. Dougal the bear ends up at the dump, he meets a friend, and gets to ride in the garbage truck with the men. Then, well, there’s a picture of Dougal at the pool hall with the guys drinking a large mug of “ginger beer.” The book goes on to state that Dougal and his friend had too much ginger beer and had to “sleep it off” in the truck. Mind you, this is complete with a picture of Dougal the bear laying on his side drunk; his friend is flat out on his stomach. Now, I didn’t think ginger beer was alcoholic, but no one needs to sleep off a soda! So, we weeded it. In a small town that packs a lot of conservative parents, we can’t be giving out a book where stuffed animals get hammered. On a personal note, I thought it was hilarious and otherwise a cute book. I weeded it and brought it home because I couldn’t let such a priceless treasure slip from my fingers.

Holly: I’m surprised none of the parents complained. I can just see it: “My child has been playing at being drunk ever since I read him this book!” Amazon lists an unfavorable review by School Library Journal, but customer reviews seem quite positive! The author is from Australia.

  1. This is such a cute book, why is it here? I think you meant to submit it to Awful Library Patrons 🙂

  2. WOAH! I love that book. I was doing volunteer work at my local library in high school and found this.

    It’s such a sweet little book.

  3. Before you said the author was Australian I figured it for British. I’ve run into a lot of British (and perhaps Australian) kids books that need “instant edits” while being read. The original “Railroad Series ” (Thomas the Tank Engine) books need it too, those engines are MEAN.

    I met someone who got very upset at a Bob the Builder book because Bob celebrated a job well done with a cordial. Her frame of reference was when Anne and Diane get bombed

  4. I present this information without comment one way or the other: You may be interested to know that this book was shortlisted for Australia’s most prestigious children’s book awards in 2005 (CBCA Book of the Year in the Early Childhood category). It’s also won a couple of Australian children’s choice awards. It was also turned into a children’s show that was performed at the Sydney Opera House.

    I guess it just goes to show that the US and Australian markets are very different!

  5. Eh I wouldn’nt consider the patrons ‘awful’ for complaining. I do think it’s a bit strange it’s in a *kid’s* book really. I can see the thing with the cordial, it wasn’t like he got drunk or anything.

    1. This comment made me thing of Anne of Green Gables, when Anne doesn’t realize the cordial has alcohol in it and gets her friend drunk.

      Now I wonder if people have a problem with that part of the book…

      1. I know there’s people whom have problems with the Little House books because they use the word “Indians” – and some stupid people thought that JRR Tolkien was writing about the Twin Towers when he wrote “The Two Towers.”

        Yes, they’re just that stupid.

  6. I used to work in a bookstore (in Australia), and that book was always popular, both for purchasing and reading time. I feel like weeding it was a real loss to that library.

  7. I love this book! I borrowed it from my local library a few months ago and my son loved it too. I read it to him about 10 times.

    I don’t see a problem – but I’m in Australia where we’re all drunks (I’m joking).

    I’m glad I don’t live in a place that’s as conservative as the submitter’s area….

  8. This book actually sounds awesome, and I think these “small town” parents need a sense of humour check. As kids, we used to love to pretend we were drunk on ginger “beer”.

    1. …and we turned out ok! I heard that the difference between ours and subsequent generations can be summed up by the fact that we had wood burning kits.

    1. Hey, I represent that,ur,I resent that!
      I really don’t think that Wisconsinites drink anymore than any college/frat town/Las Vegas crowd,it’s just cheaper there.
      And they say that a drink or two is actually healthy for you in moderation.

  9. I think hipster parents will love this for the irony. As an Australian award-winner, with critical acclaim, it’s inclusion in a collection is quite defensible.

    If the Garbage Dump Bear book circ’ed ok and was in good condition, I’d keep it!

    Is The Lonely Doll by Dare Wright any less disturbing? What about Arlene the Sardine by Chris Raschka? Should we restrict our children’s collection to pablum based on the wishes of conservative parents?

  10. I love your site & I agree with your decisions to weed 99% of the time…but I don’t consider this one weed-worthy.
    Drinking or eating anything in excess could result in a need to ‘sleep it off’.
    Let’s the kids enjoy this book…keep it on the shelves.

  11. Actually, submitter said the parents didn’t complain, they just returned the book. So while they figured it inappropriate for their own child, they didn’t demand to get rid of it. As to the librarian pulling the book, he or she is sensitive to the needs of the community. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    1. Actually, there’s something very wrong with what the submitter did–the book was removed absent a single complaint. Those who had a problem with had their own solution; they simply returned the book. (In fact, we don’t know if *anyone* had a problem; people return books quickly for lots of reasons.)
      Now, thanks to our intrepid censoring librarian, no member of the community gets to enjoy the book.

  12. That’s just funny.

    I understand why it got pulled, goodness knows that the kids don’t need to learn how to sleep off a bender until they are closer to “David Bowie Poster” time.

    I agree that we need more pictures to have an accurate idea of what this book is about.

  13. Interesting. It’s truly representative of the balance between censorship and considering the social mores of the community. I, for one, would not weed this unless people really complained. And even then, they’d have to make an argument for getting rid of it. There are far more disturbing images in many of the most beloved children’s materials. Seriously – have you SEEN some of those old WWII Looney Tunes?

    And besides, the bear couldn’t have been drunk – it was just a sugar crash from all that ginger beer. Will we now ban baking cookbooks and “If you give a mouse a cookie” because they promote bad eating habits? (removing tongue from cheek now)

  14. Censoring. No one complains that Dumbo gets drunk in the movie. Or the squire in Sleeping Beauty. Or all the kids from Pinocchio. C’mon.

  15. It just looks super weird. It really must’ve been a tiny little uptight town. Hell, when Spongebob was pseudo-drunk in the movie, it was a lot more vivid than this, and very few people complained about that

  16. Humor has a strange way of not crossing oceans. Just because they liked it in Sidney doesn’t mean your patron are going to think it’s funny or cute.

  17. Wow. I’ve never been moved to write in to disagree with a weed before, but here’s a tip, submitter: when you bring the book home because of its quality, having weeded because of a few hysterical returns, you’re one of the bad guys. Think it through for a moment: if it’s a valuable addition to your home library, then it’s a valuable book for the public, too, isn’t it?
    Sorry, but censorship isn’t the same as weeding.
    P.S.: There’s nothing offensive about “sleeping off” ginger beer, either.

  18. It stands to reason if it’s an Aussie book (I’m an Aussie btw). Lots of our stuffed toys end up blind drunk on soft drinks at the tip. Go to any recycle shop at the local dump and you see lots of startled looking teddies (& friends) just waiting to go to a new home and turn the kiddies into wino’s.

  19. That’s hilarious. I wish there were pics of Dougal getting drunk. Dougal makes Corduroy’s little adventure look so boring by comparison!

  20. I just wanted to post again to say that my daughter saw me looking at this blog yesterday and demanded we check the book out (again) from our library.

    It really is a sweet tale. Perhaps it makes some people uncomfortable to be shown the realities of the garbage dump?

  21. What about the needs of the non-Conservative parents and of the chidren? Why should they be restricted from access to a book, especially as no-one has even complained.

    (Proper ginger beer, by the way, is mildly alcoholic.)

  22. We were trying to be sensitive to the needs of the public. We live in a very small, conservative town. Everyone has their opinions, but our librarians don’t need to be called insensitive or need to be jumped on. Some of you are just being nasty about it. I probably won’t post anything here anymore because I don’t need people getting uptight about things. I thought this was supposed to be fun.

    1. One of my golden rules on weeding that a librarians knowledge of his/her community trumps CREW or any other weeding theory. If it fits in your library keep, if not, weed. Every library and every community is different. Stick to your guns. And as one of the co-founders here, we are suppose to be light hearted and hopefully learn a few things. Everyone please move along and return to making snide remarks about Burt Reynolds’ butt.

      1. What an awful way to limit your community to what you think.

        Not to mention an awful way to weed – I would be utterly horrified if anyone who worked for me used that line when weeding.

        1. Oh cool your jets! 🙂 I wouldn’t dream of weeding on my opinion alone EVER! I am only saying that we can’t KNOW all the factors in play and that submitter’s opinion might be based on factors having nothing to do with library science. (example: I have personally kept a crappy self published book in a collection because the author lived near the library and wanted us to have it.–he visits it regularly.) Is this a cross I am going to die on? Nope. Selection and weeding are to go hand in hand! and in the case of Dougal, I also would question why it was purchased in the first place. This is newer title. There should have been a review at least. A lot of these weeding problems are caused by poor selection or lack of vision for a collection. Weeding is not one size fits all or should it have a political agenda. Vision and mission statement, knowledge of the community are the most important factors for effective weeding. Access to interlibrary loan or a university library can also help in these decisions. Okay now I sound cranky and irritated and since I am heading out to work I will now need a piece of chocolate prior to my shift on the reference desk.

      2. Weeding shouldn’t have a political agenda but it sure should be cognizant of those agendas existing in patron and professional fields.

        Forcing patrons to ILL for a picture book because someone thought someone didn’t like it and deliberately pointed it out to patrons (biased questioning much?) to back up their decision and then took the book home themselves is a straight up classic case of bad weeding. It’s like the manager I came across ‘weeding’ a book on being buried alive because she thought it was gross and might offend the elderly – the book itself was in fine condition, it was newish and not a single person had complained (but it had won awards). I was a lowly work experience student at the time so I couldn’t actually effect any changes but I can tell you right now that it plays on my mind any time anyone brings a book up saying ‘I don’t like this’.

        You’re a librarian, you’re not supposed to like all the books in your library but you’re supposed to support people’s access to them.

        And I’d posit it was selected because it’s an award winner, it’s got Australiana type appeal, kids like the illustration style and it’s a cute story. Allusions to drunkenness (not depictions thereof since everyone has pointed out the non-alcoholic nature of ginger beer) are one small part of the book.

        And, just to finish off, as a young people’s librarian I am appalled at the lack of respect for young people – you seriously think they’re going to ‘act drunk’ because of a single small scene in a book? As opposed to any of the other scenes or even the overall message of the book?

  23. Yes, Burt’s butt deserves the remarks. Who thought that was a good idea?
    Anyway, we did show the book to a couple of our regulars before weeding, and they were appalled. A mother told us she stopped reading it to her child because of the drunk part. This is a town where we can’t have a “Halloween” party because Halloween is inappropriate for children.
    You can’t judge our decision or decide it’s strictly censoring based on your community. They’re all different

  24. “And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

    So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.” -Kurt Vonnegut


  25. We haven’t banned it or put out a hit on the author! We don’t get rid of books that personally offend us or refuse any sort of liberal material. Don’t knock us until you’ve been in our shoes and have been ripped into shreds by a devout Christian parent who feels we’ve put something ‘inappropriate” out.
    We’re not shoving Ann Coulter down people’s throats, for goodness sake. Everyone just cool your jets! Yeesh

  26. Are there more Dougal books? The characters are displayed as if we should already know them. The pull-tab tells me that the ginger beer incident is a highlight of the trip! Anyway, I’d bring a book back if I was boring myself and my child with a lot of explanations. That’s a weeding clue.

  27. Yeah, I’m afraid that I too feel really uncomfortable with the way this was handled. At least wait for an official complaint or two to roll in before just assuming that your community is going to get the collective vapors over the image of a teddy bear “drunk” on ginger beer. Plus, taking the book home with you? Not cool. I don’t know how your library handles weeds, but mine sends all weeded books to our bookstore, where they are sold and the money used to support the library. Staff taking weeded books home is not allowed because you’re taking money away from the library. Even if your library doesn’t have a bookstore, weeding a book in good condition and taking it home seems like the kind of thing that would look really bad when viewed from the outside.

    1. Our library does things differently. When we weed books, the librarians get first dibbs because a lot of them don’t sell. Again, libraries do things differently, and I’m tired of people judging mine. The book was a bad fit, the librarians didn’t want it anymore, so they let me have it. Just because your library does it differently doesn’t mean that I’m 100% in the wrong.
      I know that it looks bad on the outside, but in my library, what I did wasn’t wrong, and no matter how much it irks you, it still isn’t wrong to my superiors.

  28. If you have such a respect for librarians and the field, then you should consider being decent instead of jumping down other librarian’s throats and making rash conclusions about that person’s decision. It was a few very capable librarians who made the decision, and it’s not your job to tell us we’re horrible at our job. Honestly, I’m sorry we’re not all as perfect as we should be.
    We know how our community is, and you don’t. I never said that children would act drunk, and I do have respect for others, including young people. I just have respect for our parents and know that they wouldn’t appreciate it. Don’t accuse me of a thing until you know me!
    Honestly, if you don’t like our decision, then don’t even comment. I’m sick of everyone accusing me of this and that, suggesting I’m an awful librarian, and being rude. Thanks for giving me a fair shake everybody! Nothing like librarians jumping on top of each other…fun…

    1. You really don’t see why people have a problem with your decision making process here? “We thought someone might complain, so we weeded the book just in case.”
      That could be applied to half the books in any given library if you think hard enough about it. I once had a patron who was into “Cats solving mysteries” books make a disparaging comment about “Dogs solving mysteries” books. She thought they were stupid and absurd because it was obvious that dogs could never solve crimes. Should we pull all the mysteries in that genre now? There are pacifists who object to any book about warfare or fighting, particularly children’s books, shall we weed any book with any reference to war, and any book with physical conflict in it? There are christians who object to any depiction of magic or the supernatural in books because the believe all magic comes from satan, there goes all the fantasy books, Harry Potter and all his clones, and the Twilight books. Somebody objects to sex in a book? There goes all the romance, and better start going through all the fiction and looking for the naughty bits before a patron finds them!
      This is why the majority of libraries have official policies about when and how to go about removing a book due to patron complaints, My library has a form the patron can fill out to petition for the removal of a book. The form goes to the head of the library and the board to be considered. What doesn’t happen is librarians making snap decisions based on what might happen.
      And what CERTAINLY doesn’t happen is the librarian who made the decision taking the book that the taxpayers bought for the library home with them without reimbursing the library for it. I’d get written up for doing something like that, possibly even suspended.

    2. Well, I for one can understand why it was pulled. Obviously it was going to present problems in that paticular community. People might want to whine and not accept it – but hey, look how many people complain about video games making kids violent instead of blaming themselves for being bad parents. I grew up on the A-Team and other violent shows and don’t kill people because my parents taught me better.

      Obviously there would be parents who would whine and complain about the teddy bear teaching their kids to be alcoholics, be that true or not. Better to avoid the conflict and scapegoating all together then have a bunch of whiners threatening to burn all the books in the library.

      And yes, I do believe some people would be just that stupid. Like the ones who want to ban Little House for using the word “Indians” or Huckleberry Finn for the use of a certain other word.

    3. Reanna, I personally like this book but think it would be a poor fit for my community, so I see where you’re coming from.

      However, you don’t get to tell people not to comment if they disagree. That’s not how the internet works.

  29. So, we are supposed to wait for complaints before weeding ANY material? Huh? I’ve come across books with outdated information in them (think sex ed circa 1982 in the YA section that was horrifyingly outdated). Should I as the librarian–someone TRAINED to evaluate the collection–wait until a patron complains before deciding to remove this book that is no long valid or appropriate for the teenaged patrons who would be looking at that book?

    The original submitter did say patrons have mentioned that it was inappropriate or made them uncomfortable. That, with the quick returns are an big indication there is some issue with the book. The submitter did say those were the reasons she took a look at the book in the first place. Personally, I have many books in my personal collection that were weeded from the public collection FOR VALID REASONS. I have never weeded something solely because I wanted it for myself. If I found something I liked that didn’t match weeding criteria, I’d just use Amazon or alibris to find my own copy. I have the weeded books because they would have been recycled otherwise and because they are quirky, because of historical value/comparison of how knowledge has changed (for example, a book about space travel circa 1957 that I just found among the collection LAST YEAR). We also had to weed all our solar system books to make room for ones that took out Pluto as a planet. I kept one of the weeded ones for sentimental reasons (Poor Pluto got demoted.) They were going to be recycled anyway, so I wasn’t depriving the public of a book.

    I highly doubt the submitter looked at the book and said, “I must have this in my own collection,” as her ONLY reason for weeding the book. I don’t know what their policy entails, but ours allows us to make individual weeds, based on specific criteria, without having to record or log every weed for review. (And this from a library board that says they love to “micromanage”, yet they trust us as librarians to know how to select and weed material without their approval…go figure).

    Clarifying: Our library does a combination of selling books through our Friends organization and recycling the outdated information/worn and torn books. If we’re weeding old medical/legal information, we don’t sell them–they’re automatically recycled. AND if a staff member does want a discarded book that’s to be sold, WE pay for them. There are no freebies. Same goes for the donated books that people bring the library or the Friends. They are evaluated to see if they will end up in the collection, the sale, or the recycle bin. Collection books we, the staff, can’t touch (only check out like regular patrons), sale books we can buy, or recycle books we can have (and most of us pay for those as well, although that isn’t mandatory).

    As for this particular book, it did win awards, three in fact: Australian Picture Book of the Year, IRA / CBC Children’s Choices, Family Choice Award Winner. My source:

    I understand what most of the commenters are saying about the fear of complaints, but if the original submitter did get some patron input about this, what is wrong with her and the other librarians reevaluating this book and deciding it wasn’t appropriate for the collection? Does every single weed have to go through official reconsideration reviews and committees?

    1. You are being purposely obtuse. The book was brand new and as you yourself pointed out, had won many awards. Perhaps if she had said ‘it just wasn’t a good fit’ nobody would have taken notice but she weeded because ‘it offended conservative patrons.’

      Liberians are seen as the first line of defense against censorship, so when one removes perfectly fine material based solely on what offends ‘conservative christians’ that is gong to be seen (and rightly so) as censorship plain and simply.

      1. I never said it was pleasing conservative christians. In our library, we happen to think that we should have an ounce of responsibility about what we provide for the children.
        And, you do not need to call the other poster obtuse. You don’t need to be mean to me or other posters because we don’t agree 100% with you.
        Just because a book got good reviews doesn’t mean it’s perfect for every library. Plenty of crappy movies get bad reviews when they’re good and good reviews when they’re bad. We got the book, eventually took a closer look, and decided that it wasn’t a right fit for our particular collection. You made assumptions and then judged me based on those assumptions.

      2. Kristen, you are being purposefully obtuse yourself. You would condone her saying “it just wasn’t a good fit”, which is just a euphemism for censorship, yet claim “she’s censoring and that’s just plain wrong”, to paraphrase you and other commenters.

        If it “just wasn’t a good fit”, what on earth does that mean? It means that it doesn’t fit within her community and wouldn’t appeal to a majority of her library’s patrons. That means that there might be SOME patrons it might appeal to…you can’t please everyone with any decision you make, especially when it comes to how their tax dollars are spent. AND, she did get opinions from her patrons, some of whom did actually check out the book. PART of weeding is considering “community standards”, whatever those may be. You are being purposefully obtuse if you don’t consider your patrons in the equation of selecting and weeding books.

        NOTE: No book is ever going to be a perfect fit, and no book is going to ever be totally wrong–i.e., “you can’t please everyone at the same time”, and “every library has books that will offend someone”. SO, libraries ultimately tend to serve the majority in a lot of instances of selection and weeding.

        As for your misspelling of librarians/”liberians”, was it deliberate (liberal?)? Because that’s just plain silly.

  30. Have to say that this site condoning this “weed” makes me wish to weed the site from the internet as well as subby from the library profession.

    *Assuming* the parents didn’t like it due to their returning it quickly (and how does subby even know this is for the reason s/he ascribes? Maybe kids just didn’t like it and never asked for a reread?) sans any complaints and therefore proactively censoring it (thereby wasting public funds that were spent on the book and denying it to any patrons who might have enjoyed it) seems more a demonstration of subby’s discomfort with the book and desire to protect people from it.

    Very, very poor librarianship there.

    1. As a long time fan of the site myself, I am also very saddened and disappointed at the site condoning censorship.

    2. Wow, it’s very very rude of you to say that I and then the other librarians I work with deserve to be removed from the profession. I don’t care what your opinion is, that’s just very rude. You have no clue how I am in my library and with my patrons, and I don’t need some self-righteous librarian telling me I don’t deserve to be one.

      I wasn’t aware that you’re perfect at the job. I understand everyone’s opinion, and I’ve been beaten up enough about it. But, what you said about that was just wrong, and it’s wonderful to see you have so much respect for other librarians.
      I see that taking away a book that didn’t fit in our library is super wrong, but going on a message board and being beyond rude to a peer is perfectly acceptable in the field. Thanks for your comments.

  31. Jennifer, if you had read the subsequent posts by the submitter, she said that she discussed the books with some of their patrons, one of which said she quit reading when she got to the “drunken bear” part and other patrons felt uncomfortable with it.

    1. Thank you! I said everything I could, and I’ve explained the situation as best I could multiple times, but everyone’s made up their minds. I could say that I took the book back and they’d still find something to snap at me about. The joys of internet blogging.

  32. I just wanted to point out, that as an Aussie who now lives in the US, in many countries “cordial” is NOT alcoholic. It’s a very popular kids drink sorta like Koolaid, you add water to it, but it’s liquid instead of powder. Looks like a cool book, I understand why you pulled it and I would have kept it too if I was in your shoes.

  33. You know, I’m just done. This whole thing has gotten out of control, and this is a fight no one is going to win. I, for one, really don’t have the time or the desire to be on here fighting with complete strangers all day. I’ve already said more than I need to, and this topic is officially closed in my mind. I hope others will follow suit. Best of luck to all of you.

  34. Holy cow! The comments!
    But hey, my comment is this: you’re supposed to be politically correct and not call them “stuffed animals” but “Fabric Americans!” Well, that’s me just watching too much Sifl & Ollie…