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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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Join The Conversation
tweet-hotpants tweet-hotpants 7 years
i think this is absolutely absurd! books are the way we learn about society back in the day.
ktownpolarbear ktownpolarbear 7 years
i understand why judy blume would change her references, but it doesn't make sense for sweet valley high girls to lose weight. that's just lame.
redheath redheath 7 years
I think the updates to minor parts of the books are fine, ie the mimeograph. I'm 31 and don't know what that is. The size thing though I find disappointing. The books set very positive and somewhat realistic expectations for younger girls. Even when I was a teen a size 6 was a very common size. It's too bad that we have to reduce a womans waist size to make her more modern. If anything we should be going the other way.
sharshar sharshar 7 years
The thought of Elizabeth going emo in a blog makes me want to hurl.
liciababe liciababe 7 years
I loved SVH and BSC books when I was younger. I think it's discusting that they would change the girls sizes from a 6 to 4 that is something that is completely irrelevant to the books and doesn't change the story all it does is screw up little girls ideas of beauty. I take major issue with Judy Blume's comments when I didn't know what some of the things were that were in her books and I looked them up or asked my parents. I find it horrible that as a writer she would be ok with changing something she has written to 'mordernize it' when i don't think it would really affect the popularity of the books if anything it makes me think less of her and her books.
CollegeGirl CollegeGirl 7 years
Why even put a size on a character in a book? Does the fact that Elizabeth and Jessica are a size 4 suddenly make the book better? Did the fact that they were a size 6 make any of us read the books back then? And people wonder where girls are getting this pressure to fit into a certain image. :?
desertbanshee desertbanshee 7 years
No way! They did this with the Nancy Drews. Argh. What were they thinking? Part of the charm of those was her wardrobe choices, and you don't tinker with art. Shall we pierce Mona Lisa's nose?
curlyqmich curlyqmich 7 years
Maybe it's because I have a strong personal attachment to these books (there's more than a hundred of them sitting in my attic), but this news really makes me sad. I was always planning on giving them to my future daughters to read, and now I have even more reason to give them the originals.
rickimc rickimc 7 years
luvhouse07, I think Ned and Nancy did break up in the "Nancy Drew Case Files" series, and in some of the "Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Supermysteries" she was still dating him, but any reader could tell that it was Frank that she really wanted (and I think he dated a girl named Callie or something like that).
DramaQueen23 DramaQueen23 7 years
No, no, NO!!! Do NOT change the books, for God's sake!! It's PERFECT the way it is. Do NOT update anything. I am so disgusted. If they want something *modern* they should write a new book. They shouldn't mess with an amazing series. ~hugs & kisses~
JennaV JennaV 7 years
Fuck no....don't mess with my SVH or my Blume books. Besides, let people write new books for the girls of today.
scorpstar77 scorpstar77 7 years
Oh dear lord. And we should update Little Women so that it removes all references to the girls wearing gloves and bustles and riding in horse-drawn carriages? I mean, not that Sweet Valley High books are on the level of the greatest classics, but PLEASE. Let kids actually do research and learn things instead of dumbing everything down like they can't handle a reference from 20 years ago.
jadenirvana jadenirvana 7 years
Dont change the book! That series is sacred. Although I would ok with them actually making an "Eyes and Ears".com blog that we could all read, hee hee.
pink_magnetism pink_magnetism 7 years
I think it's difficult to update references in ANY book without altering the entire book, even if the book is something like Sweet Valley High.
emalove emalove 7 years
I agreee with most of the commenters...DON'T change them!!
ehadams ehadams 7 years
The Sweet Valley High updates are ridiculous. The Judy Blume book updates make more sense- I remember reading those and going "what is that?" On the other hand, having to look this stuff up on the internet or asking parents is never a bad thing...
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 7 years
I barely consider these books. Seriously. I mean, don't get me wrong, I read this stuff when I was growing up, same with Babysitter's club. But it's not "lit" by any stretch. I guess I don't really care that they updated these. The originals are still out there if people want them. Judy Blume, I take issue with, because she actually wrote those, not a team of people churning out garbage. But anyway, moving on... And as for the 6 => 4 issue, I agree with the poster who is citing size inflation of clothing. I was a size 6 back then and am a 4 now, and I've put on a few pounds. Also, the word "perfect" refers to their sizing, not that they're the perfect size. For example, I sew, and the patterns are all still in "true" sizes. So for sewing patterns, I'm an "imperfect 10" meaning some of my measurements are 10 but others are more like 8 or 12. Our instructor refers to "perfect 10s" and "perfect 12s" as people whose measurements are all exact. Anyway, whatever. It's not like there isn't enough other body image crap out there to complain about. I just personally don't see this as an issue.
Allinds33 Allinds33 7 years
this is ridiculous!! i am super annoyed to read this... i hope i have all the originals of my books still... i mean, i'll take the 30 seconds it will take to explain to my child what a "mimeograph" machine is....
fleurfairy fleurfairy 7 years
Yeah, there was no size 0 back in the 80's. So a size 6 back then would be a size 4 now. Let's be glad they didn't make the twins be a "perfect size 0." I don't think they should be updated.
linds1019 linds1019 7 years
Can no one come up with anything original anymore?
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 7 years
someone didnt get the point...and its not about fat kids. I dont care if a perfect 6 is a perfect 1 now, dont change the book. .
Phebevenus Phebevenus 7 years
OMG people--haven't you noticed dress size inflation?!! A "perfect size 6" IS a "perfect size 4" by 2008 standards! How do I know this? Because when I was 15 (in 1997), I weighed 127 pounds and wore a size 6. I am STILL 127 pounds eleven years later, and suddenly I wear a size TWO at the Limited!!! I still work out exactly the same (running) and I still love carbs. If my bra size can stay a 34C for ten years, then my dress size should, too. And this is TOTALLY NOT an unrealistic size for girls to aspire to be, especially if they're 5'6" or shorter. Obesity is an epidemic in America, and girls should start getting off their fat asses and exercise 30 min each day instead of eating Little Debbies after school. 4=6!!!!
kikidawn kikidawn 7 years
"I have to respond to Judy Blume's comment because what is wrong with kids asking their parents about things that they don't understand? Aren't books supposed to broaden a kids view and make them ask questions about things they do not know? The books should definitely remain as they were originally written and remind us of our past." Exaclty what I was going to say kklecka! I *LOVE* history(any era) and I *LOVE* reading. This makes me so mad. I can't believe they would just up and change something just b/c it is "outdated"... And the whole size 6 -> size 4 makes me sick. This infuriates me!
kklecka kklecka 7 years
I have to respond to Judy Blume's comment because what is wrong with kids asking their parents about things that they don't understand? Aren't books supposed to broaden a kids view and make them ask questions about things they do not know? The books should definitely remain as they were originally written and remind us of our past.
i-am-awesomeness i-am-awesomeness 7 years
I had no idea that they edited the books so much over time. I always thought once it was out, it was out. I don't necessarily think it gives kids the wrong idea, because kids should get their opinions from a wide range of sources, including friends and family and not a book alone perse. But I think it takes away from the original feel of the book, and takes out the content and meaning that it was intended to have.
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