Dear Egmont publishing,
At least four mornings of the week my son wakes up garbling made-up songs about Fireman Sam. I’d estimate that about half of his days are spent submerged deep in a world where Fireman Sam, Penny, Elvis and invented, complicated rescue scenarios are more real than the tea I’ve put in front of him, or the garden furniture that he’s scaling while shouting: “GREAT FIRES OF LONDON!!!!! Mandy’s stuck on the North Face!”
So when he came back from a weekend with his grandfather, clutching the Fireman Sam magazine that you publish, I wasn’t bothered, despite the fact that I’m not buying him new stuff at the moment. In fact, in the two months since that weekend he’s pored over it almost every day. It’s got puzzles and colouring, some educational games and some sweet stories so actually, for £2.75, it was pretty good value for money, I thought. I was pretty sold. Until yesterday.
Yesterday, J discovered the ‘Pontypandy Post’ page on which you print photos of a few of the kids who read the magazine. They are, the page explains, Fireman Sam’s ‘Number one fans’. You take a photo of yourself, put it in an envelope addressed explicitly to Fireman Sam himself who, a two-year-old mind can only imagine, then picks his very own favourites.
J looked confused. “I want my picture up there,” he said. “I am Fireman Sam’s biggest fan.” I said we could take a picture and send it in. “No we can’t,” he said, crestfallen. “Because I don’t have any of that stuff.” And I realised he was right. We can’t. Not really. Because it wouldn’t stand a chance of being printed.
Let’s take a look at the kid you’ve highlighted as the ‘top’ fan. There he is, looking cute in his Fireman Sam pyjamas. Behind him is a bed, covered in a Fireman Sam duvet cover. Next to that, some Fireman Sam curtains, a Fireman Sam nightlight on a desk with a Fireman Sam table cloth over it, a Fireman Sam rescue boat beside it and at least a dozen other Fireman Sam books and toys crammed into the frame.
Now I like Fireman Sam. I like the sweet values it promotes: neighbourliness, bravery, looking after your friends. But I don’t like the message you’re sending out here. In fact, I’m furious. How dare you? How dare you tell my son that the kid whose parents shell out the most for merchandise is a bigger, a BETTER fan than the kid who spends all day inventing Fireman Sam stories drawing only on his imagination?
Every single picture on this page is marked by merchandise: there’s Isabel with her Fireman Sam magazine; Lewis in his Fireman Sam t-shirt, posing with some guy in a Fireman Sam costume; Thomas and his plastic fire station and all the rescue vehicles; Elliot in his Fireman Sam dressing up costume. I know you can’t take a picture of imaginary stories. But where are the photos of the little boy playing in his cardboard box fire engine? The little girl surrounded by her drawings of Pontypandy mountain?
Tell me that this issue is not typical. That you don’t usually tell little minds that their heroes only value them if they buy the right toys.
Yours still a little hopefully,