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'Famous Five' being rewritten

Farewell to the awful swotters, dirty tinkers and jolly japes: Enid Blyton's language is being dragged out of the 1940s by her publisher in an attempt to give her books greater appeal for today's children.

world Updated: Jul 25, 2010 01:39 IST

Farewell to the awful swotters, dirty tinkers and jolly japes: Enid Blyton's language is being dragged out of the 1940s by her publisher in an attempt to give her books greater appeal for today's children. See Graphics

Starting next month with 10 Famous Five novels, Hodder is "sensitively and carefully" revising Blyton's text after research with children and parents showed that the author's old-fashioned language and dated expressions were preventing young readers from enjoying the stories.

The narrative of the novels will remain the same, but expressions such as "mercy me!" have been changed to "oh no!"

"The actual stories remain the same – there's no change to the plot whatsoever," said Anne McNeil, publishing director of Hodder Children's Books.

Blyton, said Hodder, was a "passionate" advocate of child literacy and would stress the importance of children relating to her characters, especially through their dialogue. The author criticised the books that she used to read as a child herself, saying: "There was no lively conversation, telling exactly what the speakers were like, just as a conversation does in real life".

Hodder will publish 10 contemporary Famous Five books in August, starting with Five on a Treasure Island, originally published in 1942.

It will bring out the rest of the titles over the next seven months, and McNeil said that if research pointed towards the need to update further Blyton titles "we would respond [to that]".

Tony Summerfield, who runs the Enid Blyton Society, said he was "thoroughly against unnecessary changes just for the sake of it, from adults who underestimate the intelligence of children".

He added: "I am in approval of changing language which has perhaps become offensive or has different meanings, or any racist references," he said. "And certain words such as 'gay' or 'queer' obviously have different meanings nowadays and it's fair enough to change them. But changes for the sake of them, I disapprove of."

Summerfield had heard Hodder would change the name of the circus boy, Nobby, in Five Go Off in a Caravan, to Ned, which struck him "as very strange". "How can you change Nobby to Ned and yet leave Dick and Fanny? It doesn't make sense.

"Why does Blyton have to be so heavily altered when other authors from the same era aren't changed at all? No one's going to change E Nesbit's Railway Children ... Children can appreciate these books were written in a different time."