bwbe.jpgIf you’ve taken a children’s literature class over the last 30 years, chances are your instructor mentioned some of the differences between books published before about 1970 and those published after. Those older books reflected the often sexist and racist society of their times, and since then, publishers have tried to clean up their act and demonstrate their political correctness.

Well, here’s an object lesson – illustrations from two different editions of Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever. A fellow going by the name of kokogiak has a Flickr page showing two pages from the 1963 edition, which he received as a toddler, and from the 1991 edition his own children own. Look at the page titled “Fire!” In 1963, the characters in a burning building are rescued by “firemen”; in 1991, the rescuers are “fire fighters.” One of the rescued is a “beautiful screaming lady” in 1963, the other is a “jumping gentleman.” In 1991, the lady is simply a “cat in danger”; the gentleman’s caption has vanished.

The other page shows various professions. In 1963 the only employed female is a teacher; in 1991, the teacher is male, and many of the jobs have been replaced with others. The “commuter” and “train conductor” are now a “reporter” and “photographer,” and most interestingly, the (male) soldier has become a (female) judge. Interesting, and fun to see, since how many copies of a 1963 edition of a Scarry book still exist in any public library? It would long since have been reduced to the molecules from whence it came. (Thanks to kokogiak, and to boingboing.net, where I found this story.)

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