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Brunel cigar airbrushed from school book

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BRUNEL ENTHUSIASTS have this week launched a spirited campaign to reinstate the famous engineer's trademark cigar after it was airbrushed from the front cover of a new children's book.

The cover shows the classic photograph of Brunel posing in front of the launch chains of the SS Great Eastern, a cigar hanging from his bottom lip.

But publisher Heinemann has stripped Brunel of his cigar, because it deemed it 'not iconic' and felt that its presence may stop school libraries buying the book.

The book The Life of Isambard Kingdom Brunel is aimed at five to seven year olds, but Heinemann fears that this is too young an audience to be exposed to cigar smoking role models.

The publisher admitted that if the subject had been more famous, like Sir Winston Churchill or Fidel Castro, the cigar may have remained.

The move was condemned by Brunel 200, the body responsible for next year's bicentenary celebrations. It urged NCE readers to act to ensure the paperback version of the book - due to be published next year - carries the true image.

'This is a ridiculous decision, ' said Brunel 200 director Andrew Kelly. 'Does anyone seriously believe that anyone of any age is going to be seduced into smoking by pictures of Brunel with a cigar?

'You might as well censor out his equally trademark headwear for fear that it might start a fashion among children for stovepipe hats.' ICE head librarian Mike Chrimes said Heinemann's move drew parallels with Stalin.

'As a history book, it is simply dishonest, ' said Chrimes. 'A teacher should be able to contextualise Brunel's cigar smoking in an era when people were smoking opium quite legally.'

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