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Have you ever read “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Matilda,” “James and the Giant Peach” or any other books by Roald Dahl?

Did you enjoy them? If so, what did you like about the characters, stories and style of writing?
In “Roald Dahl’s Books Are Rewritten to Cut Potentially Offensive Language,” Derrick Bryson Taylor writes about how new editions of Dahl’s books have been revised in an effort to make them less offensive and more inclusive. What do you think about the idea of updating classic children’s books for today’s young readers?
Mr. Taylor writes: The changes have prompted widespread criticism from prominent literary figures and others, including Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain. The books’ publisher, Puffin Books, and the author’s estate did not immediately respond to questions about the nature of the changes. However, The Telegraph, a British newspaper, earlier reported that hundreds of words, including descriptions of characters’ appearances, races and genders, had been changed or removed in at least 10 of the author’s 19 children’s books. Dahl died in 1990. A review of the author’s works began in 2020, before Netflix acquired the Roald Dahl Story Company, which manages the author’s copyrights and trademarks, Rick Behari, a company spokesman, said in a statement on Monday.
“When publishing new print runs of books written years ago, it’s not unusual to review the language used alongside updating other details including a book’s cover and page layout,” Mr. Behari said, adding that the efforts were led together with Puffin. “Our guiding principle throughout has been to maintain the story lines, characters, and the irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text.”
Changes reported by The Telegraph include characters who are no longer described as “fat” and references to “mothers” and “fathers” that have been updated to “parents” or “family.” Mr. Behari said that the estate had partnered with Inclusive Minds, an organization that champions diversity and accessibility in children’s literature. In a statement on Monday, the group declined to discuss the Dahl project specifically. While noting that it did not “write, edit or rewrite texts,” the group said that it had helped “provide valuable input when it comes to reviewing language that can be damaging and perpetuate harmful stereotypes.”
Matthew Walther argues in an Opinion essay “The Truth About the ‘Censorship’ of Roald Dahl” that alterations to the texts of famous works of literature are not uncommon: Despite the indignation of the critics and the high-mindedness of the revisers, the truth is that most of the edits to the Dahl books are of very little importance. Many are slight (replacing “old hag” with “old crow”) or inscrutable (“taught him how to spell and write sentences” for “volunteered to give him lessons”). Others are needlessly “sensitive” (changing “black” to “dark,” even when the connotations are not racial, or “attractive” to “kind”) but do not seriously affect the author’s meaning. A handful of the edits are unintentionally hilarious: Insisting that “man-eating giant” be replaced with “human-eating giant,” as in the new edition of “The BFG,” sounds like an unclever right-wing parody of wokeness. But the most worrisome thing about this is the stylistic ineptitude.
The assumption that there is an urgent debate here, one of the utmost importance to the future of culture, society and so on, is politically useful to both sides. But what both sides are really arguing about is not whether it’s ever OK to make posthumous edits, but who gets to make them and why.
Mr. Walther continues: After all, not even the most strident critics of Dahl’s editors can really believe that it is always unacceptable to alter the texts of famous works of literature. I have never heard anyone object to the fact that in editions of “The Great Gatsby” published since 1992, numerous perceived errors of both fact and internal chronology have been corrected, such as the age of Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s daughter and the name of the real hotel where the couple are married. (Though perhaps we should object, given that we might reasonably expect errors in a first-person narrative about Jazz Age boozers.)
My students, read one or both of the articles and then tell me:
Should children’s classics be updated for today’s young readers? Do you think that posthumous edits are sometimes necessary? Or are they a form of censorship, as some critics argue?
Have you ever felt that any of Dahl’s books or other children’s classics felt dated, out-of-touch, stereotypical or offensive? If so, tell us in what ways?
What do you think of recent efforts by the Dahl estate to revise his books to make them “less offensive and more inclusive”? What is your reaction to the backlash?
Are you a fan of Dahl’s books? Do you have a favorite? Rick Behari, a spokesman for the Roald Dahl Story Company, owned by Netflix, says the guiding principle in making any revisions has been to “maintain the story lines, characters, and the irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text.” What do you think of the changes quoted in the articles, or elsewhere, like updating references to “mothers” and “fathers” to “parents” or “family,” and replacing “old hag” with “old crow”? Do you think they maintain Dahl’s “irreverence and sharp-edged spirit”? What do you think is gained or lost by these changes?
According to Matthew Dennison, a Dahl biographer, the author resisted unnecessary sanitizing and believed that pressure to make any changes to his work reflected adult sensibilities rather than children’s misgivings. “I never get any protests from children,” Mr. Dahl once said. “All you get are giggles of mirth and squirms of delight. I know what children like.” Should young people be able to read “unsanitized” children’s books? What lessons about children’s literature can we take away from this controversy? New editions of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and other Roald Dahl books have been altered to eliminate words deemed inappropriate. Is that an okay thing to do?
Entwistle · 51-55, M
I think it's fine to alter words that may be offensive. It's happens with other authors too.
Eg Enid Blyton used the word 'Sambo's' to describe black people. Should that word still be in her books today?
Entwistle · 51-55, M
Also it's up to Dahl's estate and the publishers what they want to do with his books.
Entwistle · 51-55, M
I read a lot of them as a child.
Enjoyed them.

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