Ink Thinkin

Random thoughts from Dy Larson of Ink Think, freelance editor and copywriter

Monday, November 21, 2005

Revisionism Run Amok

This is just silly and wrong.

The title bar above is linked to a site giving more of the story. The gist of it is that the publisher of Margaret Wise Brown's "Goodnight Moon" recently decided to airbrush a jacket photo of the illustrator because he has a cigarette in his hand; they had it removed.

This is an issue on a number of levels. One at a time, in no particular order:

Tampering with a Classic

Personally I can't stand "Goodnight Moon". I bought the board book version (which, incidentally, doesn't have author/illustrator photos on the back) for my daughter because a number of people recommended it. Obviously I will, most likely, never be a picture book author. Fortunately for me, while my daughter likes the book ok it is far from a favorite. Woo-hoo.

That said, a lot of people do think this is a great children's book, one of the greatest. It has stood the test of time since the airbrushed print run was a 60th anniversary tribute edition. It is a 'classic' and thus should not be tampered with. I agree. It is not our place as a society to add PC sensibilities to an artistic work once the artists aren't around to stop us.

On the other hand, it IS just an illustrator photo, so I, personally, don't think the that this is a valid argument. They aren't tampering with the content or the classic illustrations.

The Smoking Thing

This one holds NO weight with me. I'm in my 30s and I've known cigarettes were bad for you since before I was old enough to know what a cigarette was. Does anyone really believe that a kids reading a picture book (if they are even old enough to read it to themselves) are going to take up smoking because the old guy on the jacket photo has a cigarette (a barely discernible one) in his hand? Yea, right.

Tampering with Historical Records

Here is the meat of the issue. Does it truly matter if they alter the illustrator pic to remove the cigarette? No. Is anyone going to take up smoking because this guy's pic shows him with a cigarette? Not likely.

Is it in any way okay to alter a historic document or photograph to 'adjust' it to current sensibilities? No. Absolutely 100% no no no!

Photos are taken, stories are written; they are what they are. People who 'adjust' records from the past are creating a lie for future generations. I'm trying to find a more eloquent way to say this but I think that the above covers it all. Our responsibility to the future is to keep an accurate record of our times, warts and all.

So, if you get a minute and feel strongly about the revision of our past, click the link in the title bar and vote at


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