Enid Blyton: Five don’t go mooching round the pedestrianised area

I’ve been aware that Hodder, in their wisdom, have been updating the language in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books to make it more appropriate to kids today. As if it was appropriate to my generation in the 1980’s! Anyway, I read this article on the Guardian’s Comment is Free, and my comment went a bit over-sized so I thought I would republish it here.

When I read the Famous Five books in the early 80’s the language was already anachronistic; nobody in the playground called each other “fatheads” but the books did appeal to some broad aspects of being a kids, regardless of the era they were either written in or read in.

The freedom the Five had was something to aspire to and the respect Julian got from adults was something I longed for as a kid too. Those things are universal. The books also fostered a great love for the outdoors in me too, which remains to this day.

I don’t see well meaning but ultimately misguided editors going back and revising Tintin books, which are after all even older, to add mobile phones, computers and other modern day paraphernalia to the mix, so I don’t see why we need our childrens classics updated either.

What’s really changed in our society since the early 80’s that means this “updating” is really necessary? Computers & video games for kids? Nope, I was playing those in 82 and 83. Kids television? Nope, I was watching poorly dubbed Japanese imports like Starfleet and Science Team Ninja Gatchaman (cut into Battle of the Planets over here) around that time. We had VCR’s to watch films on, Nintendo Game and Watch to play games on the move and most of the other “modern” distractions kids have nowadays.

There are two things we didn’t have:

1) everything handed to us on a plate- the idea that a teacher infamously voiced of renaming exam failure as “deferred success” back when I was at school would have seen them drummed out of the profession.

2) there wasn’t the sort of moral panic we have nowadays about scaring our children or exposing them to anything that might upset them. This is of course hypocritical as a lot of parents will still buy their children 18 certificate video games when they’re a couple of years older.

Anyway, this is a subject close to my heart, I wrote a blog post on it last summer: