BARNEY BOOK HAS NAUGHTY PICTURE; BERGENFIELD READERS FIND A PORN REVIEW

Friday, December 27, 2002

Copyright 2002 Bergen Record Corporation
The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Barney book has naughty picture; Bergenfield readers find a porn review
By PETER POCHNA, STAFF WRITER

Two Bergenfield children opened a musical book expecting to sing along with Barney the dinosaur and his friend Baby Bop. Instead, they found a photograph of a man and woman in a naked embrace, below the words "Wilder Sex."

Although the publisher denies responsibility, that doesn't satisfy the parents who bought the book.

"They want some sort of apology and maybe reassurance for the children that Barney is pure," said Rosemarie Arnold, a Fort Lee attorney contacted by the couple, whose youngsters are 4 and 7.

The photo found in "Sing-Along Songs Barney" came from a review of pornographic movies in a German-language magazine. It was exposed, Arnold said, when a hard plastic panel with buttons that play the tunes fell off the book.

Along with the English-language "Wilder Sex," the translated German film titles on the page include "Sex Without Boundaries," "Slow Seduction," and "The Lioness." The movies are rated with pairs of lips instead of the more common stars. "Wilder Sex" gets four lips.

This isn't the first time a sexual photo has appeared in a children's book produced by the same Illinois-based company, Publications International Ltd.

Two years ago, a 2-year-old boy in Palm Bay, Fla., was flipping through "Tickles for Elmo" when he came across a photo of a nude couple. That picture was also under the book's plastic audio panel.

The boy's father told the Orlando Sentinel that he went public to ensure that more kids weren't exposed to nude pictures in children's books.

At the time, a Publications International spokeswoman confirmed that the company had received several similar complaints.

The company has blamed the printer in China, which it says uses recycled paper to produce the books. In the Florida case, the publisher said, the printer pulled the wrong batch to reinforce the book's cardboard back.

Publishers International produces about 500 titles a year in categories such as children's books, cooking, sports, health, and consumer information. A woman reached at the company's offices Thursday said she was not authorized to comment on the matter. The company's media spokeswoman did not return messages Thursday; her voice mail said she was away on vacation.

But in a letter to Arnold, a lawyer for the Illinois publisher insisted it wasn't at fault - and said the photo isn't all that bad, anyway.

"The use of this material was the independent action of the printer who published the book," said the letter. "The material is no more graphic than what's seen on magazines, billboards, and TV every day."

Arnold, in turn, said she certainly wouldn't let her children watch a television show featuring scenes like the one depicted in the photo.

"It's blatant sexual activity is what it is," she said. "The children were embarrassed."

The Bergenfield family declined a request for an interview. Although they were considering a lawsuit, Arnold said, it's doesn't appear worth the expense. Instead, the family is hoping for an apology - not that they were likely to get one, based on the lawyer's letter, Arnold said.

"I think this is a case that ends with no satisfaction," she said.