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Roald Dahl's children's books get a sensitive makeover, sparking debate

While many have welcomed these new language edits that aim to be inclusive, some have argued that it was not required.

Roald Dahl's children's books get a sensitive makeover, sparking debate
Image Source: Youtube/ABC News

All three generations, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z, share a commonality of having grown up reading Roald Dahl's books. Whether it is the tale of "Matilda" or the endearing "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," we have grown up on these stories and they hold a special place in our hearts. However, nowadays, children's experience of reading classics such as "James and the Giant Peach" or "Danny Champion of the World" may differ slightly. The latest editions of these children's classics in the US and UK, as reported by The Telegraph, contain numerous small yet significant alterations that promote inclusivity and sensitivity to current social issues, prompting some to describe them as more "woke," as per Scary Mommy



 

 

In the book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," the character Augustus Gloop, previously described as "fat," is now referred to as "enormous." Additionally, the Oompa-Loompas, also from the same book, has undergone some changes to become gender-neutral and less controversial. However, in "The Witches," the main antagonists remain bald and wear wigs, but the text says, "There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that."

As per Puffin Books, the modifications in the books were overseen by sensitive readers and pertained to themes such as weight, mental health, gender and race. The Roald Dahl Story Company, which possesses the rights to the works, expressed that the changes were implemented to ensure that the books can be appreciated by all audiences in present times. The company told the Associated Press, "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. Our guiding principle throughout has been to maintain the storylines, characters, and the irreverence and sharp-edged spirit of the original text."



 

The new books contain a message from Puffin on their copyright page, "The wonderful words of Roald Dahl can transport you to different worlds and introduce you to the most marvelous characters. This book was written many years ago, and so we regularly review the language to ensure that it can continue to be enjoyed by all today." With the news of the changes, readers are sharing their viewpoints on the matter with varying degrees of intensity. Certain individuals perceive the modifications as necessary to modernize the books and make them more inclusive for all readers. However, some conservative voices are criticizing the changes as censorship by "woke bullies." This perspective is notable given that conservative groups are currently advocating for the complete prohibition of numerous books from schools. It appears that this group only expresses displeasure when they disagree with the edits.

 



 

Meanwhile, PEN America has raised valid concerns over the changes, stating that they establish a risky precedent for the editing and banning of books. In a statement, they said, "Amidst fierce battles against book bans and strictures on what can be taught and read, selective editing to make works of literature conform to particular sensibilities could represent a dangerous new weapon." They added, "Those who might cheer specific edits to Dahl's work should consider how the power to rewrite books might be used in the hands of those who do not share their values and sensibilities."

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