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minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue Feb 3 16:20:35 EST 2004


Deborah commented:

>On Tue, 3 Feb 2004, Roger Burton West wrote:
>|I hear a great deal about the power of the sinister school librarians'
>|organisations to make or break a book for children in the USA, at least
>|in the commercial sense. Possibly they have demands of this sort?
>Well, if so, they don't teach us about it until after we've got the
>diploma and have learned the secret handshake.  My vibe from the ALA
>thus far is that librarians are as mad as anyone else about publishers'
>and booksellers' assumptions about the intelligence -- or lack thereof
>-- of child readers.

As a child I hated it when writers talked down to me by using simple words
and not making me stretch a bit.  If Beatrix Potter could use words like
"soporific", thought I, in small books for little kids, why did anyone else
feel they had to talk down?

Why was the Philosopher's Stone too difficult?  It's not as though most
British children would know what that really meant (gracious, how many
British *adults* know what it really was?) -- but why were American
children not meant to have the pleasure, later in life, of meeting the
phrase and recognising it?

It's like if one only ever played tennis with people of exactly the same
standard as oneself: how would one ever get any better?  If no new or
difficult word is ever allowed into a book, why would anyone ever discover
what "soporific" meant?

Either way, if the satsuma is a smallish citrus fruit in America too, I
*really* don't understand substituting a walnut, which is a quite different
thing.  It's a degree more baffling than substituting "parking lot" for
"allotment" -- at least an allotment is a slightly unusual word/idea.

Has anyone ever contemplated, in American editions of British-English
books, putting a glossary at the back rather than changing words, does
anyone happen to know?  It seems to me that would be a thoroughly good
idea.  Then one could retain the interesting-otherness for the child
without leaving it baffled by some word it really didn't have any reason to
know.

Minnow


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