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Should Older Books Be Updated For a Modern Audience?


I spent a good portion of Thursday afternoon being horrified by the fact that, in the newly updated versions of the Sweet Valley High books, the gorgeous Wakefield twins' oft-referenced clothing size has been reduced from a "perfect" six to a "perfect" four — a fact the publisher proudly trumpeted in a press release. It's as though Random House sat down with the '80s editions and thought, "huh, these unrealistic expectations just aren't quite unrealistic enough!"

The Wakefield waistline isn't the only thing they've changed: Instead of a red Fiat, the girls now drive a red Jeep Wrangler (I thought they said 2008, not 1998!), and brainy Elizabeth edits her school's website and blogs rather than working for those boring dead tree things we used to call "newspapers."

This reminded me of an interview with Judy Blume I heard last Fall, where she talked about deleting some of the menstruation "equipment" from updated editions of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (and taking a mimeograph machine out of Fudge). She said she didn't want to confuse kids and make them ask their parents to explain how things were back in the day.

Do you think it's necessary to update references in older books so they make sense to a younger crowd? Or is the tinkering just unnecessary?

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