In 2010, publisher Hachette updated the language to make “sensitive text revisions” to Enid Blyton’s 21 ‘Famous Five’ books in an attempt to make them appeal more to modern children. This followed market research that suggested children were no longer engaging with the tales about child detectives, due to their dated language.
Now though, Hachette has decided to abandon the idea because the new revisions were not received well by readers.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.
“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.”
Tony Summerfield, of the Enid Blyton Society, 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 500 million lifetime sales.
No way, now there is a series of Famous Five parodies, - the continued adventures of Julian, Dick, George and Anne as adults, along with Timmy the dog in “Five do dry January”, “Five Go Gluten Free”, “Five Go On A Strategy Away Day” and “Five Go Parenting”.
A few details from the “Five Go Gluten Free”, to give you a 'flavour' of what is in store: the gang “are all feeling really rather rum, and it’s been going on for days. Nothing seems to work, and with their doctors mystified, they’re driven to trying out various expedients to cure themselves. Julian goes online to self-diagnose that he’s got pancreatic cancer, bird flu and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Anne decides that the old methods are the best and decides to have herself exorcised – which proves to be an awful lot of bother for everyone, and such a mess. Dick goes to a witch doctor who calls himself a ‘homeopath’ but it’s George who discovers they need to go on an exclusion diet, so they enter a world of hard-to-find, maddeningly expensive specialist foods …”