The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

18 November 2005

Because, you know, it's for the children

And, after all, that's all that matters, right?

In the great green room, there is a telephone, and a red balloon, but no ashtray. Goodnight Moon, the children's classic by Margaret Wise Brown, has gone smoke free.

In a newly revised edition of the book, which has lulled children to sleep for nearly 60 years, the publisher, HarperCollins, has digitally altered the photograph of Clement Hurd, the illustrator, to remove a cigarette from his hand.

"Photoshop: Threat or Menace?"

The photograph of Mr. Hurd cheerily grasping a cigarette between the fingers of his right hand has been on the book for at least two decades. Kate Jackson, the editor in chief of HarperCollins Children's Books, said it only recently came to her attention, at a meeting to discuss how to publicize the book's 60th anniversary in 2007.

"We had a lot of copies out on a table, and all of a sudden we realized that in the photo on the back of the jacket he was holding a cigarette," Ms. Jackson said. The company was about to reprint the hardcover and paperback editions, so "as a quick fix, we adjusted the photograph" to eliminate it.

The text and the illustrations inside the book are unchanged, but it's just a matter of time before other children's stories are reprinted and updated:

  • Hansel and Gretel, lured by the witch to a house made of whole wheat toast, save themselves by tricking the witch into getting stuck in a wok.

  • Old Mother Hubbard goes on food stamps.

  • Becky Thatcher warns Tom Sawyer that she doesn't consent to anything further.

  • All three bears will have equal bedding and meal temperatures; this is not only egalitarian, but it will simplify matters for Goldilocks.

  • When Cinderella flees the ball, she leaves behind a sensible shoe.

  • Tom, Tom, the piper's son, will now steal tofu.

(Via Lindsay Beyerstein.)

Posted at 7:50 AM to Almost Yogurt


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And Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater, will be arrested for unlawful imprisonment.

Posted by: McGehee at 8:24 AM on 18 November 2005

Yes yes ... we might face a fullwise thoughtcrime if we didn't correct this via proper upsub. Don't want to face the youth league after all.

Posted by: Mel at 9:00 AM on 18 November 2005

I swear, this sort of thing is going to drive me to smoke. And even if I don't, if I ever do get published on dead tree, I think I'll hold a lit cigarette in my hand for the jacket photo.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 10:49 PM on 18 November 2005

What about more modern 'children's' characters? Popeye smokes and has tattoos.

Posted by: Mister Snitch! at 12:40 AM on 20 November 2005