An American Jewish children’s author, R L Stine, has become the latest casualty of a trend for publishers to “sensitively” edit his books — only this time, Stine says, it was done without his permission.
Stine is the author of one of the world’s most successful children’s fiction series. His Goosebumps books have sold more than 300 million copies and are the second highest series after JK Rowling’s Harry Potter novels.
Goosebumps were first published in the 1990s and have now been re-released as e-books — but they have been “sanitised”. Writing on Twitter, Stine has attacked his publisher, Scholastic, accusing it of making changes to his work without discussing them with him. He wrote: “I’ve never changed a word in Goosebumps. Any changes were never shown to me.”
The changes are mainly references to mental health and weight, with the removal of words such as “crazy”, exchanged for “silly”. Cultural references which young readers might not understand such as “Walkman” have also been deleted. Characters are described as “cheerful” rather than “plump”.
Coming soon! The cover is REVEALED! pic.twitter.com/N7h9oQwb7i— R.L. Stine (@RL_Stine) February 19, 2023
According to The Times, Scholastic said that it had made the changes to “keep the language current and avoid imagery that could negatively impact a young person’s view of themselves today, with a particular focus on mental health”.
The paper said that the Goosebumps titles were a phenomenon when they were first printed in the 1990s and at the height of their success were selling four million copies a month. Stine, 79, wrote 62 of the original Goosebumps series and once said that he could write a book in six days.
Defending himself against charges of collusion in the changes on social media, Stine declared: “This story is false. I have never changed a word in a Goosebumps book,” he said in response to a fan who pleaded with him to leave the books alone.
This new row comes in the wake of the furore over proposed changes to Roald Dahl’s series of children’s books. Puffin, the late author’s publisher, is now set to offer two versions of Dahl’s books, the original and its “sanitised” updates.