Alison Flood in the Guardian has a piece on the reworking of the language in the Famous Five books which Hodder, their current publisher, are publishing in August. They will still publish the originals but the contemporary range will modernise some of the language.
I can see why Anne McNeill, the publishing director of Hodder childrens books, wants to do this. Some of the language is archaic now and perhaps odd sounding but I wonder if this will add to their popularity or if it is pandering to a perceptions. The article mentions that half a million copies of the books are sold and that she is in the top 10 most borrowed authors in the libraries. So they still hold their popularity.
They are they are a reflection of their time as is the language. (Her attitudes as well but hey ho.) Part of their (limited) charm to me is the fact that they are period fiction, they are completely of their time. I disagree with Andy Briggs, currently is working on his own updating of Tarzan, who is quoted as
It’s an unfortunate necessity … [t]he classic books we were brought up on – the Famous Five, Tarzan, Sherlock Homes – need to be updated. Language just changes, it evolves, and the problem is if we don’t evolve with it, then the new generation of kids is not going to have anything to relate to.
If it is continually updated, then it loses its charm. Books will come in and out of fashion and I’m not sure that this updating will serve to bring readers back to these classics or the authors.
Instead readers are more likely to engage with the new version not the original. This move is unlikely to make the books any more popular or any more “timeless”. As ever, classics and backlists need promotion and ‘re-branding’ but changing or adulterating the text is not the way to go with this. It is not a jolly jape.