When editors or publishers request authors remove details from their manuscripts before they’re even published because of concerns that parents or educators will react, it is a form of censorship. It also, in my opinion, can lead to bland or banal books, books that do not resonate with the target audience. It can prevent children from being able to learn about issues and work through them through one of the safest forms possible–a book. And, when paring away at a fantasy plot, can also take away the magic, mental stimulation, and spark for imagination that fantasy aspects can have.
Of course it’s important to edit a book well, to make the book the best it can be. But when word choices are based on fear, I don’t think the decisions are good ones.
It appears that some UK children’s authors, especially picture book authors, are experiencing such a censorship right now–and the word choices seem to me to be poor ones, such as removing from the text or illustrations in books: sharp objects; a dragon that roasted marshmallows with its nose; a ladder; and a child walking alone.
Books are one of the few things that still promote active thinking, imagination, problem solving, and more in a child, unlike TV, video games, or movies. I hope this trend of censorship will stop. A spokesperson from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) said it well: “Honest literature opens communication and gives young people the opportunity to test their values and make positive choices for their lives.”