Details released of tale about Queen’s 70-year reign, which is felt to be too ‘Anglocentric’ by devolved governments
The platinum jubilee children’s book due to go out to every state primary school pupil to celebrate the Queen this month will not be welcomed in all Welsh or Scottish schools.
On the request of the Scottish and Welsh governments, schools in those regions will be asked instead to opt-in to receive copies.
The book was originally intended to be in schools within the next few weeks, ahead of the jubilee weekend next month, and was to have been available in the major regional languages, including Gaelic and Welsh.
New details and images of the book released on Sunday reveal the narrative will focus on the adventures of a little girl called Isabella, who visits her great grandmother and finds out about many of the highlights of Queen Elizabeth II’s 70-year reign.
Put together in collaboration with royal experts and historians, the book includes famous quotes from the Queen, facts on the coronation ceremony, and anecdotes about the lives of famous Commonwealth figures, such as Nelson Mandela. It also contains information about notable kings and queens and a timeline of Queen Elizabeth’s own life.
The UK government reportedly awarded a £12m contract to London-based publisher DK books to produce 211,000 bilingual copies of the book to be distributed to children at just under 3,000 schools and educational establishments in Wales.
But after seeing early pages, members of the Welsh government felt it would not be appropriate to distribute it to every pupil.
Instead they asked in March to leave it to schools to request their copies. It has been described as having taken an Anglocentric line that did not give due regard to the history of the devolved regions of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Government ministers were said to be dismayed at the Welsh government’s initial reaction to their plans, especially as the book covers how the four nations came together as one United Kingdom, including some pages on Owain Glyndwr’s Welsh rebellion against the English in 1400 to take the title of ‘Prince of Wales’.
The book tracks British history through the memories of great granny Joyce. When Isabella arrives at Joyce’s house, she discovers a treasure box of souvenirs that become her guide to the history of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.
The keepsakes in the box prompt descriptions of the lives of inspirational people, important art, design, and cultural achievements, and landmark innovations and inventions. These include construction of the Channel tunnel, the election of Margaret Thatcher – the first female prime minister – and the creation of the world wide web.
Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “Queen Elizabeth II is the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum jubilee, and Her Majesty’s dignity, commitment and grace continues to inspire people all over the world.
“I hope all our pupils are as excited as I am to read about Her Majesty’s amazing life and the people and events that have shaped history during the last 70 years.” The book will also be on private sale from 23 June.