Picnic on the beach shows Abigail's nasty side

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Trips to the seaside evoke parental visions of candy-floss and donkey rides when they are the subject of children's books, and so it was with Abigail on the Beach.

For the last three weeks the innocuously named picture story has nestled innocently on Sainsbury's shelves, for all the world a jolly family adventure in the tradition of Enid Blyton.

Or so Victoria Trevor thought when her husband bought the book by Felix Pirani in Ports-mouth. However, she changed her mind after reading it to her two-year-old, George.

Danger bells sounded first when Abigail's father packed three cans of lager to take to the beach, a far cry from the more common bottles of ginger beer.

Then Abigail, playing in the sand, suddenly threatens all the other children on the beach.

Not unreasonable to have a childish tantrum, perhaps, but Abigail took things a little further. She told two boys that her daddy was in the Mafia and she threatened to hang them upside down by their heels if they kicked over her sandcastle.

This was just the beginning of Abigail's adventure. She went on to warn another child that her father would break his arms, then threatened a third that her pet dog would be "shot full of holes" if it continued to sniff around her sandcastle.

"I was reading the book with my son George sitting on my knee looking at the pictures," said Mrs Trevor, 29. "I have never read anything like it. In the end I had to make up my own story to go with the pictures."

Unlike Abigail's, her tale has a happy ending. Yesterday, Sainsbury's withdrew the book published by Diamond Books, the bargain division of HarperCollins, from its shelves.

However, a spokesman for Sainsbury's maintained that the book was innocuous and meant to be tongue-in-cheek, only conceding: "The selected extracts clearly cause offence."

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