My worlds collide: A Kidlit column for the newspaper

As a Q&A writer, I have to take the subjects that readers ask me about, so I don’t often get to write about kidlit.
But this week, there was a Babe question:

Q: We were reading “Babe: The Sheep Pig” and were surprised to see that the emergency phone number was 999 not 911. Why the difference? Stewart Hill, Elliston

A: Dick King-Smith’s book about Babe, on which the movie was based, was first published in England and certainly seems to be set in England. That fair country uses the number 999 for its emergency calls. Thus when Babe catches sheep rustlers in the act, Mrs. Hoggett dials 999 to summon the police.

Sometimes books are edited slightly when brought across the Atlantic in either direction and little details like this are “translated” to save readers from this sort of confusion, but some might argue that such details should remain since they add flavor and texture to a book.

I knew about the transatlantic translations (nearly) firsthand, since Cece’s Sock Monkey books have been published in Britain with charming changes to the text, along the lines of:

Sock Monkey rented a tuxedeo >>> Sock Monkey hired a dinner jacket

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One Response

  1. I have a brother-in-law who orders his transatlantic books from the UK so as to avoid such editing. I think that’s a little excessive.

    Reading “Over Sea, Under Stone” to my boys recently, I was surprised when one of the kids wished he’d brought a flashlight. Not a torch? Considering the “u” ‘s and “re”‘s throughout that book, I was surprised, to say the least.

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