The Naughtiest Girl in the School: How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition?

It has been more than two years since I’ve done a text comparison (I blame Brodie!) but I was in a branch library the other week and spotted a recent paperback of The Naughtiest Girl in the School. I thought that would be perfect for comparing – not long after looking at all the different covers for the series.

I will be comparing the 1944 5th reprint by George Newnes (which should be more or less identical to the true first edition) to a 2012 edition by Hodder and Stoughton.

Before the first chapter

The first thing I notice is the book features an introduction by Cressida Cowell. I know she’s a famous author but I couldn’t tell you what she’s written as I’ve never read any of it. Ok I can tell you she wrote How to Train Your Dragon as it says so above her introduction. I think that may have been made into a film?

Anyway, Cowell says that Blyton played a crucial role in turning her into an avid reader as a child. The Naughtiest Girl in the School was one of her favourites.

The original illustrator was W. Lindsay Cable, the new version has been illustrated by Kate Hindley. At first I thought illustrated wasn’t accurate as all I had spotted was some crude vignettes above the chapter titles (a mouse, a pencil, a pencil-sharpener and an ink-bottle with beetles, repeated one at a time) but then I realised there are perhaps half a dozen full-page illustrations too.


The first change is the chapter headings. Both have CHAPTER in capitals but the original uses what I find a slightly annoying Title Case. The 2014 edition uses all capitals. It also replaces the roman numerals with words.

Perhaps interestingly, both books use the opposite style for their contents list. The original has all capital chapter titles, and the new one has Annoying Title Case.

There aren’t any actual changes to the main text of the first chapter, however. A few things I thought might be changed but weren’t are Elizabeth’s stockings, vests and bodices. Also ink-bottle and drawing-room both in terms of being old-fashioned and having hyphens.

Illustration-wise the original has three small illustrations. Elizabeth on her mother’s lap, begging her not to send her away, Elizabeth shouting she is not afraid at Miss Scott and Elizabeth banging on the door with a book. The new edition has just the ink and beetles above the chapter title.


First – one of the reasons I hate title case is knowing what words are important enough to capitalise. Not the, an, it, on, at, for, and so on. But words like goes and makes look odd in small. Probably because they are longer than the words that usually get missed, though still fall under whatever rule governs capitals in title case. Apparently propositions shouldn’t get capitals – which would include beneath, under, about etc. But some guides would say all words over four letters, even if they are propositions. Ack!

OK, grammar-talk aside, there are some actual changes in this chapter.

The seccotine Elizabeth puts in Miss Scott’s shoes becomes glue. I have to admit I didn’t know what seccotine was when reading but as it says in the next sentence about Miss Scott trying to remove her toes from her sticky shoes it’s quite clear.

Good-bye is modernised to goodbye, which makes sense.

Yellow badge is corrected to yellow badges as the narrative is describing the collective uniforms of a group of boys.

Italics (shown in bold in my example) are removed from the sentence She does at least say something when spoken to.

Interestingly Ruth is still a tubby little girl half a dozen times. Given the de-fatification of Fatty in The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage I thought that would have been changed for sure.

There are two illustrations in the original edition, one of Elizabeth in her school uniform and one of her on the train. There are none in the new edition apart from the pencil-sharpener.


See, how strange does that title look with a small M?

I have to admit I was starting to worry about a lack of alterations, in case this blog series turned out to be really short. But this chapter sees a lot of edits.

The first queer is in this chapter, and gets changed to strange.

As before to-day becomes today.

More italics go, this time from I had a new bicycle for my Easter present and
What did you have for Easter?

When the list of girls for Nora’s dormitory is given Joan Lesley becomes Joan Townsend. I think that’s correcting an error on Blyton’s behalf as I’m sure it’s Joan Townsend who becomes Elizabeth’s friend later in the book, and who is then in her dorm too.

As we’ve seen in other books Hie becomes Hi. And I’ll say what I’ve said before – they’re not the same word! Hi is simply hello. Hie is more like oi or hey, it’s a call to attention.

The next two changes are utterly daft.

She had only slept with Miss Scott before becomes She had only shared with Miss Scott before. And Now she was to sleep with five other girls is Now she was to share with five other girls. 

I mean, come on! Yes slept with can be a euphemism for had sex with but considering we are talking about a girl of around ten and her governess I think we can rule out that meaning. I also don’t think we need to make it clear that the six school girls are going to share a room and not have sex in it. I mean girls go for sleepovers, still, don’t they? Not shareovers.

Nora’s words of and I MEAN tidily become and I mean tidily(The bold indicates italics again). Considering this book has already started the removal of italics, and I suspect there will be plenty more, it seems odd to put more in. Modern publishers probably have clear house-styles but when you’re reprinting a seventy-something year old book surely you can ignore a few rules?

And lastly, the money is updated. They originally got two shillings a week, and it’s now two pounds a week. Two pounds is not very much for a ten year old, even in 2012. I can’t wait to see how much they can buy for that. I get a bit befuddled by trying to work out relative costs comparing then to now, but here goes. Two shillings in 1940, allowing for inflation, would be around £2.37 today, so at first look, £2 pocket money doesn’t seem that odd. But on purchasing power, you’d need £6.42 today and £5.36 in 2012 to get the same amount of goods (calculated here).

Two illustrations in the original again, Elizabeth at the dining table and facing off against Nora. Only a mouse in the new one.


There’s only one change to this chapter, another removal of italics from cut her cake into ten big pieces. It’s strange as plenty of italics for emphasis are left in and I can’t see a particular reason why some have gone and not others. It’s not like Blyton’s peppered every other sentence with italics!

Another two illustrations in the original, Elizabeth and Nora at her dressing-table and Elizabeth not sharing her cake. A very wonky pencil graces this chapter in the new edition.

The count

I usually explain what I’ve counted and what I haven’t and I’m not sure it has been very clear in the past so I’ll try it a new way this time.

The new introduction is not counted as I’m focussing on the main text. New editions often have additional introductions, adverts, sneak-peaks and so on.

Some things are changed more than once, but they are the same change and only get counted once:

Roman numerals to words
Case change for chapter titles
Removal of hyphens from good-bye, to-day, etc
Removal of italics for emphasis

Total: 4

Unique changes (some of which will move to the above list if I see more examples later)

Seccotine to glue
Correction of yellow badge
Joan Lesley to Joan Townsend
Queer to strange
Hie to hi
Slept to shared
Sleep to share
Removal of capitals for emphasis
Addition of italics for emphasis
Two shillings to two pounds

Total: 10

Overall total: 14

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2 Responses to The Naughtiest Girl in the School: How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition?

  1. jillslawit says:

    I first read Naughtiest Girl as a 10 year old and wondered about the continuity error of Joan Lesley/Townsend. I clearly remember mistaking the jam sandwich in Elizabeth’s tuck box as an actual jam sandwich and not a sponge cake.


    • fiona says:

      Can I admit that even on this reading I still pictured a sandwich of jam and bread? A cake would make way more sense. Funny how you can make an assumption as a child and it just sticks with you for another twenty odd years.

      Liked by 1 person

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