Home / News Room / Famous Five go back to original language after update flops

Famous Five go back to original language after update flops

Six years after Hachette updated the language in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books in an attempt to make them appeal more to modern children, the publisher has decided to abandon the idea because the new versions “didn’t work”.

In 2010, Hachette announced that it would be making “sensitive text revisions” to Blyton’s 21 Famous Five books. This followed market research that suggested children were no longer engaging with the tales about child detectives, due to their dated language.

Changes made included replacing the word “tinker” with “traveller”, “mother and father” with “mum and dad” and “awful swotter” becoming “bookworm” The revisions also made the language more gender-neutral, with the character Anne altered to enjoy teddies instead of dolls.

At the time, Anne McNeil, publishing director of Hodder Children’s Books, told the Guardian that “children who read [the Famous Five books] need to be able to easily understand the characterisations and easily to get into the plots. If the text is revised [they’re] more likely to be able to engage with them.”

But on Friday, McNeil told the Guardian that the publisher’s “sensitive reworking” of Blyton was not received well by readers.

“The feedback we have had six years on shows that the love for The Famous Five remains intact, and changing mother to mummy, pullover to jumper, was not required,” McNeil said. “We want Enid Blyton’s legacy to go on. Millions of readers have learned to read with her.”

The Blyton estate was owned by entertainment company Chorion until 2012, when Hodder bought everything apart from her Noddy series. Hodder continued to publish a “classic” version of each Famous Five book, without the rewrites, although those too contain some small word changes from Blyton’s originals, published between 1942 to 1963.

Tony Summerfield, who runs the Enid Blyton Society, said: “I can only approve – the closer we get back to Blyton’s original language, the better. I’m not going to gripe at the odd word like ‘queer’ being changed; no doubt in 10 years’ time a lot of words will have changed.”

“If Enid ever got any criticism in her time, it was because her language was too simple. To say she needed to be rewritten in language children could understand is a bit of an insult to children.”

Summerfield said it would mostly be adults who cared about the changes. “I think to a child it wouldn’t make any difference what edition they read. The 2010 versions will only be reverting back to the text of the already revised versions from the 1990s – so [they are] not even Blyton’s original texts, although those revisions were just small word changes, not completely rewritten like the 2010 editions. Chances are, a child who picks up the ‘classic’ edition is reading a different version to their parents anyway.”

Despite being criticised as racist and sexist, Blyton remains one of the most popular children’s authors. Hodder sells more than half a million copies of the Famous Five books a year, with Blyton amassing more than 500m lifetime sales.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *