I have looked at the first three stories so far, and there were quite a lot of changes in the two I was able to compare. Let’s see what the next few stories bring.
A Surprise for Jimmy
This is from Sunny Stories For Little Folks #163 from 1933. Almost every story in this book is collected from one or other of the Sunny Stories magazines in fact. The first times it appears in a book are Macmillan’s The Astonishing Ladder and Other Stories in 1950, and Macmillan Reader #8 the same year. So it seems even the publishers of the time were reusing the same content, as the Reader is just the first 13 stories from The Astonishing Ladder! However, these two probably had different markets with the readers being aimed at schools rather than individuals.
A brief review
This is a story very of its time, which makes it an unusual selection for this modern collection. Jimmy is off to the shops when he sees an old lady drop her purse. He can’t find a policeman so he chases after her by bus, follows her onto a train, and ends up on a non-stop journey to the seaside. In Blyton’s typical fashion, Jimmy had woken up disappointed not to be going to the seaside that day as his mother couldn’t afford the money for the school trip.
He connects with the owner of the purse who then spends the day with him at the seaside before sending him home by train again. The old lady does at least send a telegram to his mother to let her know where he is.
Now Blyton was no stranger to writing about children going off without adults, but Jimmy can’t be more than seven or eight. Given the time this was written I’m not surprised he’s going off shopping by himself, or even getting the bus, but getting on a train (without a ticket) and then going off with a stranger? I had to check with Brodie that he knew that wasn’t OK!
As far as summer holidays go, at least this one has a trip to the seaside even if it is just a day trip and it takes up only a quarter of the story.
I just have to add that the bus chase – Jimmy gets on the next bus to follow the lady – makes no sense. The old lady boards a bus which Jimmy misses. He gets another bus which is a fast bus and follows the first bus closely enough for Jimmy to see the woman disembarking. Maybe I’m just used to a shocking bus service but what sort of bus operator runs one bus right after the other along the same route?
There were a surprising number of them in this story. Nothing was done to make it any less anachronistic in terms of Jimmy going off with a stranger but it is modernised in other ways, and has various other changes that have no obvious reasoning.
First up the straight-forward modernisations:
The school trip was four shillings and it is now five pounds. Not an unreasonable amount (for a presumably subsidised trip) today but with inflation the way it is it could look very silly soon.
Instead of sending a telegram to Jimmy’s mother, the old lady now telephones her (though telephones is a rather old-fashioned way of saying it!)
Hi! (not the more common hie of other books) is changed to Hey!.
Some possible corrections are made:
The train is described as a corridor train, with compartments entered from the corridor. Jimmy hears a noise from the next carriage which makes enough sense, though this becomes next compartment. He then looks into the carriage, and sees the old lady and a few other travellers looking on the floor for her purse. Again this becomes the compartment and that does make more sense. Otherwise he’d have to go into the next carriage and then to the first compartment. Unless carriage and compartment were interchangeable terms back when Blyton was writing this?
Initially I was baffled when instead of sharing her sandwiches with Jimmy on the train the old lady shared her biscuits. But then on the beach they have dinner – which becomes lunch – and later it’s tea-time. I can see the editor thinking it odd to have two lunches, but perhaps the old lady just had a very healthy appetite?
Now for the pointless:
Chocolate buns are now chocolate cakes.
It was very sunny somehow wasn’t enough for the editors, now it reads it was very sunny, with hardly a cloud in the sky. And later a lovely tea becomes a really lovely tea.
But it would be simply glorious at the seaside is shortened to it would be glorious at the seaside.
She clambered on the bus becomes she clambered onto the bus, and then off it rumbled down the street is changed to and away it went, rumbling down the street. These are such trifling changes that make no discernable difference to the modernity, the clarity or appropriateness of the sentences!
When Jimmy tells his story to the old lady he say she was running for your bus but this is now running for the bus. We know the bus doesn’t belong to the old lady but for goodness sake it’s perfectly common and understandable to say ‘your bus’ meaning ‘the bus you are about to get’.
Likewise the text had read she sent a telegram to his mother but when changed to she phoned it is also clarified with Jimmy’s mother as if we would think she was phoning anyone else’s mother!
Despite already being referred to as the sands, one instance is changed to the beach.
Some hyphens are taken out and the two – just two- uses of italics are also removed, so it can hardly be about over-use.
The old lady’s lament of oh dear, oh dear dear, oh dear becomes the more standard boring oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
And lastly there are two that make no sense whatsoever.
Jimmy looks for a policeman to report the lost purse to, but there was no policeman there. This has been changed to there was no policemen, which is grammatically incorrect!
While on the bus it’s said that on they went until they came to the station which has become on they came to the station which as a sentence makes no sense.
We miss out on five lovely Eileen Soper illustrations, each with either red or green shading.
The Twins Get In a Fix
First published in Sunny Stories #138 in 1939, this story was first reprinted in The Tenth Holiday Book in 1955. After that it appears in four collections in 1971 and later.
A brief review
This is a true holiday tale – taking place entirely on the beach. It has one of Blyton’s common beach-plots where someone – the twins this time – get stranded out to sea and have to be rescued. This time it’s of the naughty characters getting rescued by the nice ones variety, as the twins have been awful to the other children then stolen their sandcastle only to be stranded on it when the tide comes in.
I got a few paragraphs in before I spotted the first change and was thinking this one might have little to say about it…
The twins were Jim and Joan, but they are now Jim and Suzie. There aren’t many little girls called Joan these days, it’s true. But honestly, are there all that many little Jims running around? Why change one and not the other?
Then we get to the names of the other children and my word did they do some inexplicable things here. I’m not in agreement with changing the names but I can at least understand the general logic of making the books either timeless or modern by using names that are in use at the moment – unfortunately their name choices continue to defy all logic as you will see.
(If lengthy debates about name popularities, including charts and statistics are not your thing, let me just sum it up now by saying common, popular names are replaced with out-of-date ones, some old-fashioned names are replaced with names that fell out of favour decades ago, and some old-fashioned names were left alone, and now you can skip to the illustrations at the end of the post.)
First up – Kenneth becomes Kevin. Kenneth is definitely old-fashioned, but Kevin is hardly modern.
Ronnie becomes Richard. I have actually heard of a couple of boys called Ronnie (sometimes paired with a sibling or twin called Reggie) but none called Richard.
Harry remains Harry, as that’s a timeless name it would seem.
And then Jack becomes John. Jack is regularly the most popular boys name in Scotland, and it was the second most popular in England and Wales in 2015!
Below is a handy Office of National Statistics chart of boys’ names popularities. Jack and Harry both went out of the top 100 for a long period but were pretty popular at the time the story was written, and particularly in the past 30 years. So why was Jack replaced with John, which has plummeted since the 1980s and dropped out of the top hundred after 2010? All I can think of is that there may be another Jack in the book, and the editors wanted all the names to be unique? I’ll have to test that theory when I reread the rest of the stories.
While the chart shows that Kenneth did drop out of the charts in the 70s, after a fairly swift decline, while Kevin just disappeared in the mid 1980s – so hardly a better choice!
And lastly for the boys, Ronnie actually charts between 2013 and 15 (along with Reggie which I included just for fun!), while Richard leaves the top 10 in the 90s and is out of the chart by the 2000s.
Normally being a diminutive of James, Jim doesn’t chart, while James is in the top twenty for the whole time period shown.
Now for the girls. Lily (perfectly normal, common name these days) becomes Sara, which is probably less common. Mary – surely not a name for anyone under about 40 these days remains Mary. Doris, ok, very old-fashioned, becomes the more popular Lucy and Freda becomes Fiona – which I can’t argue with too much, can I?
Lily goes out of fashion in the 30s but comes back in the 90s and soars into – and stays in – the top 20 in the 2000s. Meanwhile Sara, and even the more common Sarah, are still in the chart but in the lower regions in the past 20 years.
Mary, although extremely popular in the early 1900s (due to Queen Mary, no doubt), disappeared from the chart in the 1980s.
Doris, unsurprisingly disappears in the 1940s, while Lucy was popular pre 1930 and has a huge resurgence in the 1970s and onwards, making it the one name choice that actually makes sense.
Freda was perhaps even old-fashioned by the time the original story was written, while Fiona is only a very slight improvement as it charts between the 1950s and the 1980s. (In defense of my name it was probably slightly more popular in Scotland… you only need about 40 or 50 births in any given year to make the top 100, and there were 8 Fionas born in 2015, so not far off!)
And just so that nobody is left out of the statistical fun – Joan falls out of the chart in the 1950s, while Joanna and Joanne last a few decades longer. Neither Suzie or Susie chart but Susan has a brief popular period in the 60s-80s, making it a final odd choice.
Interestingly, nothing else is changed in this book except for tea-time becoming teatime. All other hyphens and italics are left alone. The poor editors must have exhausted themselves by poring through baby name books from the 70s and 80s…
And finally, we miss out on some great Cicely Steed illustrations which were in three (yes, three!) colours. As a point I’ve just thought of – often the Sunny Stories illustrations were uncredited and differed from the one used in the later collections. The illustrations I’ll be providing throughout these reviews are the ones from the collections.
So that’s two more stories done! Let’s hope they don’t change any names in the others or I’ll be here all year.
As for the pointless changes to ‘A Surprise for Jimmy’, I kind of get the impression that someone is being paid to ‘modernise’ these tales, but is finding that there are very few points which genuinely require updating.
Therefore, to justify his fee, the writer is making (IMHO) pointless changes, on top of any necessary ones, so that when his text hits the editor’s desk/desktop it won’t look too thin to justify the fee. If the only point which really needs changing is the pre-decimal money, which is certainly true, doing what the publisher asked for – make only necessary changes – leaves the changes looking *extremely* thin.
If the writer is hoping to be paid to edit more books in this series, he has every incentive to make it look like the books need a lot of rewriting.
In ‘The Twins Get In a Fix’, Harry remains Harry, because, obviously, there is a popular character in books called Harry Potter. You could hardly find a better known boys name – unless you were going to call your kid Jim Kirk!
Likewise, Jim is a well recognised boys name – thanks to a certain Captain of the Starship Enterprise.