Life on Tapp: Bonkers stories make for happy bedtimes...

If done properly, bedtime stories are a genuine treat for all involved - especially parents.

Saturday, 4th September 2021, 9:00 pm
LONG-HELD TRADITION: Bedtime storytelling. Photo: Getty Images

Although the prospect of trudging up the stairs to read a couple of chapters, or if you are a particularly soft touch, an entire hefty tome, is not always an appealing one at the end of a long and tedious day, it’s always worth it in the end.

Of course, there are the nightly negotiations about how long that particular session will last or whether each character has a different voice, but, more often than not, that bedtime story is the highlight of my day.

Our house is full of children’s books - from collector’s box sets to well-thumbed hand-me-downs, we have most of the classics, some of which are revisited on a regular basis.

One of these is The Tiger Who Came To Tea, arguably the greatest 20th century short bedtime read, which, if read properly, is a proper riot.

Everybody knows the story of the ravenous tiger who rocks up at young Sophie’s home late one afternoon and asks to be let in. Once inside, he, quite literally, eats the schoolgirl and her shocked, yet unfailingly polite, mother, out of house and home.

Like most good children’s stories, it’s as mad as a box of frogs but it turns out alright in the end.

It’s a story that has withstood the test of time and has been enjoyed by at least three generations of children from around the world and is loved by all. Or so we thought.

Last week, we heard that a Scottish organisation that campaigns to end male violence against women, had warned that boys who read stories such as The Tiger Who Came To Tea are at risk of growing up to become rapists and domestic abusers. A headline grabber if ever there was one.

A spokeswoman for the said group argued that because the story ends with Sophie’s dad saving the day by taking the two women in his life out to a cafe, it perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes. These stereotypes, she argues, can have a lifelong impact on some young males and their relationships with women.

She also asked why the tiger couldn’t be gender-neutral.

It has since been pointed out by many that Judith Kerr, the book’s celebrated author, wrote her masterpiece in the late 1960s, when fathers typically did come home at a set time and would, soon after, be served their evening meal.

While everybody should be behind efforts to eradicate all forms of violence and abuse, going after a story that has sustained millions of young imaginations hasn’t proved to be a popular tactic.

I was brought up on a literary diet of Dahl, Tolkien, CS Lewis, and Barrie, to name just a handful - all of which were probably dated back in the 80s, never mind today, but their works, quite rightly, are still regarded as classics.

The books they produced took me to places that I wouldn’t have been able to reach on my own but I doubt that they’ve influenced me much as a fully-fledged, bill-paying adult.

All that work was done by my parents, wider family, friends, and teachers.

There is a growing tendency to over think the meaning of what we read and watch when we should be enjoying the magic in front of us.

Judith Kerr, a Jewish refugee, was once asked whether the tiger in her story represented Nazi Germany, to which she replied that it was about a tiger.

Bonkers, wonderful stories make for glorious, happy bedtimes.