Jacqueline Wilson, the author of The Story of Tracy Beaker, believes that there are valid reasons for editing children’s books to eliminate inappropriate and outdated language, especially since young individuals often lack a comprehensive “sense of history.”
Nonetheless, the renowned children’s author maintains her stance against altering “adult classics.”
Publishers have undertaken the task of reworking children’s literature by authors like Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl to exclude terms and references that are now considered inappropriate or offensive.
In February, Puffin Books enlisted sensitivity readers to review Dahl’s writings, ensuring they remain relevant and enjoyable for contemporary readers. This effort resulted in numerous alterations, such as replacing “fat” with “enormous” and transforming “ugly and beastly” into “beastly.” In Dahl’s work “The Witches,” the term “Old hag” was modified to “old crow.”
Blyton’s books, including well-known titles like “The Famous Five,” “Noddy,” and “Malory Towers,” originating from the 1940s, have also undergone “thoughtful textual revisions.” Words like “queer” or “gay” have been substituted due to their evolved connotations tied to sexuality. Blyton’s work has also faced criticism for exhibiting racism and xenophobia.
While some individuals have embraced these changes, others argue that modifying classics amounts to censorship.
Wilson shares, “There are certain aspects that might raise concerns if we were to revisit our beloved childhood reads through a contemporary lens. We might find ourselves somewhat taken aback. With children, they often internalize the material without possessing the capacity to critically analyze or appreciate its historical context.”
Wilson herself has participated in updating earlier compositions. In the preceding year, she penned “The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure,” a reimagining of a Blyton narrative. In this version, Wilson eradicated Blyton’s sexist stereotypes and “unfortunate references that were commonplace in their era but no longer align with modern perspectives,” as she conveyed in an interview with the Irish News.
As a former children’s laureate, Wilson boasts an extensive repertoire of over 100 books, having sold around 40 million copies in the UK and translated into 34 languages.