A Land Where Dragons Are Too Dangerous

In Children's by Dennis Abrams

photo lindsey gardiner

By Dennis Abrams

The Daily Mail reports that Lindsey Gardiner, a “leading children’s author” was informed to cut a “fire-breathing dragon” from her new book, because the publishers were concerned that they could be “sued under health and safety regulations.”

Gardiner told the paper that it’s just one of the “politically correct” changes she’s been asked to make “in case youngsters act out the stories.”

Along with a scene showing her dragon “toasting marshmallows with his breath,” drawings of an “electric cooker” with one of its heating elements glowing read, and of a boy on a ladder, had to be cut.

Gardner, the author and illustrator of 15 “internationally successful children’s books,” told the paper that editing decisions like those are becoming more and more common.

Take, for example, her book Who Wants a Dragon, published by Orchard Books. Ms. Gardiner reported to the Daily Mail that, “I was told, ‘You can’t have the dragon breathing fire because it goes against health and safety.’

“It doesn’t really make any sense.

“Sales and marketing departments are worried something might offend somebody, or that a child might copy something in a book and their parents will sue the publisher.”

Questioning whether such classic fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood could get published today, Gardiner said, “It’s a sad reflection of modern society.”

And again, take the example of Gardiner’s When Poppy and Max Grow Up, published in 2001 by Orchard Books. In once scene Max was originally shown on a ladder, but “They didn’t allow that because they thought it was precarious,” Ms. Gardiner told the paper.

“They I had to change the element on a cooker from glowing red to green.

“It is crazy. When I go to book signings, I sometimes take with me some coloring pictures, and the kids draw the elements as red because the cooker is on and it’s hot. They are not stupid.

“I’ve had books published in Japan, France, Spain and Holland and they don’t ask for the same changes.

It seems to be in Britain and the U.S. that there are problems.”

Nobody at Orchard Books responded to the Daily Mail’s request for comment, but a spokesperson for the Publishers Association did say that, “We are aware of some concerns by authors and it is something we can talk about in the industry.”

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.