Sunday, March 11, 2012

Adding In Anachronisms: An Abomination!

Normally, when an editor finds an anachronism in a book, it's removed or corrected so that the story remains true to the time and place in which it's set.  But in Judy Blume's Superfudge, first published in 1980, the opposite was done: anachronisms were actually added.  In the 2007 edition we have out from the library, narrator Peter Hatcher requests a laptop, an MP3 player and CDs rather than what I believe was a tape player in the original.  I think Are you There God? It's Me, Margaret was likewise "updated" with regard to feminine sanitary products!  These changes are supposed to make these books more "accessible" to today's readers.  But in my opinion, adding in these anachronisms is a big mistake and here's why. 

1. Isn't one of the reasons we read to learn about times and places other than our own?  Don't we want our kids to know that CDs and sanitary pads with sticky backs didn't always exist?

2. It just doesn't make sense.  In Superfudge, Peter, his younger brother Fudge, and their friends all go to see the movie Superman.  In the theater.  Superman was playing in theaters in 1978.  Before laptops, MP3 players or CDs existed.  If you're going to change the book, why not at least do so consistently?

3.  I'm a purist both on principle and as a practical matter.  I don't believe in abridged or "children's" versions of books.  (If you can't read the real thing, just wait.  You'll be able to soon enough.  What's the rush?  And the watered down version may turn the child off the real thing, or spoil the reader who only wants the easy way out.  But I digress.)  Similarly, I don't believe in adding in these anachronisms.

So, I beg Ms. Blume, her editor, and her publisher, please reissue the Fudge books and  Are you There God? It's Me, Margaret as originally written!  By the way, if anyone has any of the original Fudge books and would like to sell them, please let me know!

Can you think of any other children's books which have been similarly "updated"?

3 comments:

  1. kinderbookswitheverythingMarch 12, 2012 at 3:28 AM

    Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree characters have had their names changed. The modern day publishers have decided children couldn't possibly read about Fanny and Dick so now we have something like Frannie and Rick. I agree with you books are a product of their time and place and often give sociological timelines and therefore shouldn't be changed. They should be discussed with kids.

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  2. How could they do that!? Part of the charm of Are You There God... was being utterly confused by the idea of a sanitary napkin belt, both because I read it so early I didn't know what a period was, and also because they didn't exist anymore!

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  3. I don't remember much about Are You There God, but what I do remember is the sanitary napkin belt!! :)

    Also, what is so strange about this practice is: what about books that are written now, but set in the past: It's not as if they are going to "fix" When You Reach Me.

    It just seems so silly.

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