The Island of Adventure – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part 2

On to chapters three and four this week. We’ll meet Jo-Jo/Joe now that should be interesting! The previous instalment can be read here.

My own copy of the book is a 1955 8th impression and the modern copy I’m comparing it to is a Macmillan one from 2001 (on loan from Stef).


In her letter to Philip, Dinah mentions that Jo-Jo is even more stupid than before. This is changed to more strange. Why he can’t be stupid I don’t know.

Jo-Jo is also described as a half-mad servant, which becomes a strange handyman.


Our first sight of Jo-Jo, finally! In the original this happened when Jack and Lucy-Ann saw a coloured man coming towards them. His skin was black, his teeth were very white, and he rolled his eyes in a peculiar way. In the modern edition he has instead become a strange man, his skin is lined, and his eyes darted from side to side as he looked at them.

Now, we knew Jo-Jo had become a white man, and so obviously they have had to come up with something else to say about his looks. I think it will be interesting to see if I end up with a strong impression of how he looks as a white man as the book goes on.

All references to his colour so far have been cut. His black nose becomes just a nose, and the black fellow is now simply the man. I’m not sure if I will count every time black is removed from the text. Probably not unless the text is altered in some other way – such as fellow becoming man – but I may mention each removal as I’m interested in seeing just how many times Blyton did refer to his colour. Even huge Blyton fans have questioned her frequent use of black to describe Jo-Jo.

Philip’s way of speaking to Jo-Jo changes between editions. (I’m going to call him Jo-Jo despite the fact it takes longer to type than Joe as that is his name.) In the original text he says Jo-Jo, put that trunk in the car too. It’s a clear order, fitting with Jo-Jo’s status as a servant (though knowing his temperament I’m not sure I would be brave enough to boss him about). Philip now says Joe, that trunk should go in the car too. It’s no longer an order but a request. I’m glad they didn’t take it any further though. I don’t particularly think it was a necessary change but at least they didn’t make Philip say please. 

There are also a few other small changes in this chapter. Philip originally says of the many ruins along the coast; They were burnt in the battles I told you about. This, for some reason, becomes the battle. Earlier in the book when telling Jack and Lucy-Ann about Uncle Jocelyn he mentions battles, plural, having taken place along the cliffs around Craggy-Tops.

When Aunt Polly is talking about the sleeping arrangements she originally says that the girl can sleep tonight with Dinah. This gets changed to sleep with Dinah. While the first arrangement of words might be a little odd it’s clear what she means. Jack and Lucy-Ann are only to be allowed to stay one night so Lucy-Ann can spend one night in Dinah’s bed. 

And finally, queer is removed and becomes strange, leading me to a small rant. The line was Jack gazed at the strange house. It was a queer place. Changing queer to strange then makes it Jack gazed at the strange house. It was a strange place. Now Blyton gets criticized for her over-use of the same words and lacking variety, yet this modern book has made several word substitutions and added the word strange five times in four chapters, in addition to the several times Blyton has used it herself. That’s hardly encouraging a wide vocabulary in children, now is it?

I’m counting that as ten changes this time. I haven’t counted Jo-Jo to Joe or the removal of queer, but I have counted the removal of black as it’s the first instance. That makes it sixteen altogether so far.

I do wish the modern edition was illustrated (even if they were awful) as I would have liked to have seen a picture of a white Joe. That leads me to an interesting question about the use of Tresilian’s illustrations in the modern editions. I know that unlike other series, the Adventure Series hasn’t had many illustrators and that the Tresilian ones have been reused quite often, but if they show a black Jo-Jo those ones must be cut? 

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7 Responses to The Island of Adventure – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part 2

  1. RereadingBlyton says:

    Thanks for your careful documentation of these changes. Really, such ‘updatings’ are quite ridiculous. The worst example I have seen is not a Blyton but P.G. Wodehouse’s ‘Mike and Psmith’, a novel written and set in the Edwardian age which refers to cricketers of that period such as Gilbert Jessop. For a 1990s edition they have their names changed – not to 1990s cricketers, which would be ridiculous enough, but to 1950s and 1960s cricketers (Fred Truman and so on). To say the logic is mind-bending is an understatement! I strongly believe that all updatings are misguided. Even if the original text contains things which are nowadays (rightly) unacceptable, as is the case in some Blyton books, it should be left unchanged. Readers – including children – will readily understand that these books were written in the past and reflect the conventions of their time. Indeed, this adds to the reading experience.


    • fiona says:

      I’m afraid Fred Truman is as unfamiliar to me as Gilbert Jessop is… but if someone’s reading a book where cricket is a major theme then maybe they would know more about famous players. Either way it’s idiotic to replace one with the other.


      • RereadingBlyton says:

        Well, Jessop was a famous cricketer who played for England between 1899 and 1912, and would have been instantly recognizable to readers of Mike and Psmith when it first came out (the publishing history of that book is complex, but basically in 1909). Trueman (my misspelling in the previous post) played for England between 1952 and 1965. So to insert him into an otherwise completely Edwardian context was mad. And to do so in the 1990s when he was no more a contemporary figure than Jessop was doubly mad. I still can’t understand it …!


  2. chrissie777 says:

    My suggestion: in the new edition the editor could have changed the second “strange” in the following sentence into “weird” or “odd”.
    I suffered through ca. 40 times “queer” in “Secret of Cliff Castle” :). Which proves to me that Blyton’s editors at the different publishing houses did not even proof read the manuscripts before publishing them.


  3. MIchael says:

         “Strange” five times in four chapters doesn’t seem excessive to me; but I don’t see any real need to change the words Enid Blyton used.
         I don’t know if editors went over her manuscripts before they were published, and suggested changes to Enid Blyton, or just changed it themselves, or even did nothing at all and left the text unaltered, with any flaws Enid Blyton may have put in.
         If Enid Blyton used “queer” too often, suggesting that she change it would be the answer. I am opposed to editors making any changes whatsoever without permission of the author, and if improvements could be made, the author should be consulted.
         Is “queer” really *that* taboo these days, though? Does it really mean *only* “homosexual? Or can it also mean what it always meant: i.e., strange, peculiar, etc.?
         I don’t actually quite agree about the lack of illustrations. I have seen books with awful illustrations, and think having them is detrimental. Having no illustrations is far preferable to me than having poor or unsuitable ones.
         I’m pretty sure I have seen (somewhere years ago) an edition of this book with illustrations that depict a white Joe. As far as I recall, though, he just looked like a rather nondescript British man. People do tend to look nondescript in inferior illustrations, and I’m afraid I find most modern illustrations in Enid Blyton’s books to be rather so-so, if not awful (with a few exceptions, of course).
         I suppose Stuart Tresilian’s depiction of a black Jo-Jo would probably preclude the use of those illustrations which include that, which seems a pity. Or I wonder if a modern artist would touch up the pictures: just rub out the parts that show Jo-Jo’s features (face, skin colour, and the like) and replace them with new features that belong to the reborn Joe, presumably in the same drawing style. I guess such tampering would be controversial, though.
         I know racism is a sore point these days, and perhaps many of us are over-sensitive about it, and imagine racism to be present where it is in fact not; but I do still wonder if it is even racist at all to simply depict an occasional criminal as black. Presumably the editorial creators of the white Joe thought so. But if so, then isn’t it just as racist to show multiple Blyton gangsters in other books as white Britons? It’s a terrible slur on white people, because the majority of Enid Blyton’s criminals appeared to be white.
         So how must one depict or describe them at all to avoid being racist? Logically you could not describe them at all, couldn’t make them black or white or yellow or anything. Wrapping your head around these issues seems to me the first step on the path to madness.
         It’s interesting that, here in Australia, when police issue descriptions of persons of interest, naturally they are sometimes descriptions of people of Middle-Eastern, Asian, African, etc. appearance, because there are significant numbers of such people here, and some of them sometimes break the law and so come to the attention of police. But some here are against what they call “racial profiling”, which, as far as I can tell, simply means describing someone as being of “Asian appearance” (etc.), because they are in fact of that appearance. But descriptions are useless if, due to concerns of political correctness, they cannot include the obvious features that people would be most likely to notice.


    • fiona says:

      I hate awful illustrations usually but as I’m reading the modern copy for comparison purposes and not for general enjoyment it makes things a bit different.

      As for the five stranges, that’s probably not “too many” for four chapters but it’s a lot when Blyton probably used strange a half-dozen times herself, and it just seemed like the editor was lacking in imagination to just replace anything s/he didn’t like with strange.

      I don’t think it’s just that queer = homosexual, it’s that queer is so often used in a derogatory fashion towards gay people. I’ve got lots of gay friends and I’ve affectionately referred to them as queer but lots of people use it abusively along with words like poof/poofter, fairy, and others too unsavoury for inclusion here.


      • chrissie777 says:

        I still remember the times when “gay” still meant merry or happy and nothing else. When I worked at the movie archives in Hamburg, Germany, I had many gay colleagues who were a lot nicer than some of the straight ones.


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