Judging a Book On its Cover…And A Few Pages Inside, As Well

 

The Babies and I recently finished Judy Blume’s Superfudge, and they loved it. I found little Farley Drexel Hatcher to be just as funny now as he was when I was a kid, and the book overall to be even more identifiable now that I have experienced raising my own little 5-year old boy whom has acted many a time in the same exhausting manner!

Something did bug me reading it this time around, though, and it wasn’t the same reason many other parents take issue with the book. I noticed a lot of online reviews and forums with parents upset and cautioning others over the infamous Chapter 10 Santa Who? in which a certain revelation is made. I was dismayed over this chapter as well, but not for that reason at all. What I took umbrage with was the change in big brother Peter’s wish list that he writes out at little brother Fudge’s urging. I hear myself reading aloud to the kids ” a laptop computer, CDs, an mp3 player” and I stopped mid-sentence to exclaim, “Hey, wait a minute, this is so not how this story goes” Indignantly, I tried to explain to my bewildered children that I was pretty certain what Peter had actually asked for was a Walkman and cassette tapes and/or some other outdated technology.

This annoys me. And it also brings to mind an article I read some years ago regarding an update that was being made to another of Ms. Blume’s famous works, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.  The chapter in which Margaret starts her period was edited to describe her using an adhesive pad and the explanation was that it was updated to be more relatable to today’s girls. I remember thinking even then that it seemed a little unnecessary. As a kid, I read the original Margaret “period chapter” with it’s description of belts and loops and whatnot and had not the slightest idea what it was all about. But you know what I did? I looked it up, read about it, and was then able to say, “oh so that’s what women used before pads and tampons.” That is to say, I did some research and I learned something new.

I could possibly be like “ehh ok” to the Margaret change, though, due to the shared histories of so many women that reveal this was their official puberty handbook and how they learned of menstruation. One woman even said her mother tossed her a copy of Margaret in lieu of having The Talk with her.  So if this is perhaps the only instruction manual a young girl may ever get during this important time in her life, then ok, that type of update is more easily understood.

But I’m still not understanding for what socially redeeming reason Superfudge would need an update. So today’s 6th grader would read the book and not know what a cassette tape is? Indeed that probably would be the case. But wouldn’t that just maybe propel him/her to do a little research or ask Mom or Dad to find out? Leaving the original text with it’s (apparently ancient) objects makes the story no less relatable and timeless, and can even encourage further learning and enrichment. Why is that a bad thing? Yes, I had to explain to my kids what a Walkman was, but I also had to describe what an mp3 player was! Another 10 years from now kids may not even know what a laptop computer is anymore! So what then, yet another rewrite? I’m thinking the answer to that will be, probably so. 

Let’s call it what it is: updating all of two sentences, slapping a new cover on it, and putting it back on the shelf =moneymaking potential for authors and publishers. And I get that part of it, too. I can’t even really begrudge them for that. I suppose I certainly wouldn’t say no to additional revenue as an author or a publisher. But if your books are well written and speak to the universal truth of childhood, regardless of your generation (as Ms Blume’s books do quite aptly) then they likely will stand the test of time even without these “makeovers”. Besides, most of the latest cover art sucks. Just saying.

It is the top two Superfudge covers that are ingrained in my memory and heart. The bottom three, not so much.

Photo Jun 28, 10 51 14 AM

We also recently finished all of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby books. As far as I could tell, none of the text has changed. Still the same charming stories as before. I was, however, heartbroken over not only the cover art changes, but also to all of the illustrations throughout. I had been looking forward to viewing again all of the old pictures of Beezus and Ramona that I had grown up with; seeing them was almost like looking through an old photo album! But these new renderings, I did not enjoy, and so therefore was (internally) quite sour-faced during our readings. I wanted the old Ramona back.

 

I don’t know this Ramona :-/

I also devoured The Baby-Sitters Club series when I was younger.  The fashion on those covers was already passe and/or close to becoming outdated even then!

Photo Jun 28, 10 10 46 AM

 

But that was always part of its charm and I loved them! So of course I’m not a fan of these new covers, either.

 

At the end of the day, however, whatever gets/keeps kids reading is what counts. Of course I realize that all of this is not really that big of a deal. Maybe it’s just the history major in me that is skittish of any kind of “modern revision”. Or that when you’re a bibliophile, and a child bibliophile in particular, you simply don’t want anyone messing with the beloved texts and covers that have defined your entire childhood. But while I may have inwardly grumbled like an old curmudgeon, I still positively enjoyed rereading these books with my children, and will read them all over yet again in a few more years when my youngest is ready. Although this time around…I think I will pointedly seek out the original cover editions to read. Thank goodness for Amazon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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