Roald Dahl rewrites: rather than bowdlerising books on moral grounds we should help children to navigate history

Although several of his best-known children’s books were first published in the 1960s, Roald Dahl is among the most popular authors for young people today. The recent decision by publisher Puffin, in conjunction with The Roald Dahl Story Company, to make several hundred revisions to new editions of his novels has been described as censorship by Salman Rushdie and attracted widespread criticism.

The changes, recommended by sensitivity readers, include removing or replacing words describing the appearance of characters, and adding gender-neutral language in places. For instance, Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is no longer “fat” but “enormous”. Mrs Twit, from The Twits, has become “beastly” rather than “ugly and beastly”. In Matilda, the protagonist no longer reads the works of Rudyard Kipling but Jane Austen.

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