Thursday, November 13, 2008

Childhood Favorite Book... ruined by a poor rewrite



When I was little, one of my favorite picture books was Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. The basic story is that far away there is a town where the weather is not rain, snow, and sun, but rather breakfast, lunch, and dinner. All of the food falls from the sky. Over the course of the story, the weather goes apocalyptic and the people have to make the decision to flee their town for a new part of the world where food does not fall from the sky. The pictures are wonderful and full of hidden humor for the parent reading to a small child. Even as a child, I loved the wittiness of this book.

I held onto my copy of the book all of these years so that I could someday share it with my children. Unfortunately, over the years, my 30 year old copy has fallen to the fate of most inexpensive paperbacks... it's falling apart and the paper has yellowed and become brittle.

So when I saw a NEW copy of the book at Once Upon a Child resale store for a $1, I had to buy it. I could read the book to my children and retire my old copy to a memory box. Yay!

But then I opened it up and tried to read it to A. Somehow in the intervening years, someone decided that the book needed a rewrite. Why? I don't really know.

Some of the changes make a twisted kind of sense in that they try to address how our views of social/ecological responsibility have changed. For example, when the sanitation department is cleaning up the leftover food from the streets, in the original book, the food is split between the town's cats and dog and the nearby ocean's wildlife. In the new version, a new phrase has been added to state that the bulk of the leftovers are composted, with some left for the dogs, cats, and ocean life.

Some changes seem to be added to make it more clear that this is in fact a FICTITIOUS story, as if that fact wasn't obvious. The story changes from a "bedtime story" to a "tall-tale bedtime story." Okay, I get it, but really... really? Did that need to be stated?

Other changes simply make NO sense and do not improve the book at all. Instead of stating that the town has stores, houses, gardens, trees, and schools, it now states that the town has stores, houses with gardens and trees, and schools, etc. Not really a necessary change. Or when the pancake lands on Henry's head, it must be stated that the "flying object" was identified as a pancake. Anyone looking at the picture can see the pancake lying across Henry's face and see that it is in fact a pancake. These additions really do nothing for the story and only detract from the fact that the pictures supposed to be the main purveyors of detail.

I really don't understand why, overall, the book was deemed in need of a rewrite. It made perfect and simple sense as it was. And yes, while I can understand that in today's world we wouldn't think of simply dumping our excess food into the ocean, does that really necessitate a rewrite of a fictional story about a fictional town with fictional weather???

I'm so disappointed that I won't read A the new copy. I try, and every time I come across an edited sentence or paragraph, I stumble and have to try to remember what really belongs there and what doesn't. I'm truly sad over this. I may have to go out and find another OLDER copy of the book for A... well, okay, for myself!

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