The Secret Island – How has Blyton’s original text fared in a modern edition? part five


I got a far as chapter thirteen last time so it’s on to chapter fourteen of The Secret Island this week. The original text I’m using is from the sixth impression from October 1949 and the updated text is from an Award paperback from 2009. The previous posts are here – part one, two, three and four.


CHAPTER FOURTEEN: JACK DOES SOME SHOPPING

Shopping of course requires money, which naturally is updated. Instead of selling the little baskets of produce for sixpence each Jack sells them for a pound each. So rather than it being shillings and sixpences [which] clinked into his pocket they are altered to just coins.

It seems silly when you think about it as despite the fact he’ll earn £27 if he sells all his baskets, he’s buying candles and matches rather than LED camping lanterns and lighters. Everything about this book screams ‘set in the past’ given that the children are allowed to be taken out of school to work, there’s no mention of TV, phones or any other modern conveniences.

There are three E.H. Davie illustrations in the hardback and one by Dudley Wynne in the paperback. They both show us Jack at the market though.

I appreciate that Wynne has drawn his characters in of the time clothing but Jack still looks quite odd about the face and head. I always think that his baskets are going to slide off his poles in the original drawing though! (Click either of them to see a bigger and less distorted image.) Wynne’s, like a few others, actually goes across both pages but the other side only has more people at the market and so I didn’t include it.


CHAPTER FIFTEEN: JACK NEARLY GETS CAUGHT

Italics are removed again in this chapter (though most of the time they are left). When the children are talking about Robinson Crusoe and one of the girls laughs that they could teach him about living on an island, Jack remarks He could teach us a few things too! The italics on us are taken away and I think a little of the meaning is lost. The italics strengthen the idea that Jack’s statement is quite the opposite of the one he is replying to.

An error is also corrected as Blyton has Peggy reply to herself at one point and it gets changed to Jack.

Lastly after Jack sneaks out of the henhouse where he has been hiding, there was not a sound was to be heard except the thump-thump of someone ironing in the kitchen. Presumably modern children are all used to the lightweight and quiet electric irons and wouldn’t understand why an iron might thump so this has been changed to him hearing the voices of people in the kitchen. 

This time there are only two illustrations from the hardback and as always one for the paperback, and again both feature the same scene, Jack and the policeman.

Both have their policeman in the same type of uniform though curiously Wynne’s villagers suddenly look just a little more modern than before.


CHAPTER SIXTEEN: THE GREAT HUNT BEGINS

There’s only one teeny change here and I’m rather assuming that it is a mistake. In the previous chapter both editions refer to the henhouse where Jack hid. In this chapter the one mention of it has become hen-house.

The hardback benefits from two more illustrations than the paperback in this chapter though none of them depict the same scenes.


CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: THE ISLAND IS SEARCHED

I’m not sure I understand this next change. Instead of everything went like clockwork, it has become everything went smoothly. Surely like clockwork is still a well-known phrase?

Finally, when Peggy exclaims Oh Mike dear! it is changed to just Oh Mike! Either the dear is too old fashioned or somehow inappropriate? Who knows.

Again it’s 3 to 1 for illustrations but both do have the men hunting around the island.

Wynne’s went over two pages again (the other side showing the back/side of another man’s head) but this one made me laugh as although he’s looking at the remains of the hen-yard I rather think he looks like he’s about to try to use an invisible toilet.


Again I find it interesting to see what hasn’t changed. I keep reading lines in the hardback and thinking ‘oh that might be changed’ then reading the same thing in the paperback. Several earlier chapters have been altered to change the gender-specific roles the children take in their chores yet in these Peggy does all the mending and sewing, she talks of making the bread rolls and Jack buys the new enamel plates and the kettle for her. And then she tells the boys they’ll have to put up some shelves for their new things.


That’s nine changes altogether this time making an even fifty in total.

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