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Books by one of Britain’s most famous children’s authors branded racist

Writer Enid Blyton pictured in 1955. (Express Newspapers/AP)

LONDON — The work of Enid Blyton, one of Britain’s most cherished children’s authors whose books are among the most translated in the world, has been condemned as racist and xenophobic by a cultural foundation in the latest episode of Britain’s divisive culture wars.

The charity English Heritage, which brings the nation’s history to life with a plan that sees blue plaques installed on buildings that were once lived or worked in by famous individuals, updated the information associated with Blyton’s iconic plaque, which is positioned on the front of the house she lived in between 1920-1924.

“Blyton’s work has been criticised during her lifetime and after for its racism, xenophobia and lack of literary merit,” the website reads, citing a 1996 report from the Guardian that explores Blyton’s book “The Little Black Doll,” which sees the character of Sambo only being accepted once its “ugly black face” is washed “clean” by the rain.

English Heritage said Thursday that their website serves to provide readers with a “full picture” of those commemorated with a blue plaque, adding it would also seek to address “any uncomfortable aspects” of one’s life.

Among those commemorated with the ceramic blue plaques are the country’s historians, athletes, novelists and campaigners.

Born in London in 1897, Blyton was one of the most prolific children’s authors ever, penning an estimated 700 books. Her most famous series include The Famous Five and The Secret Seven and feature children getting into all sorts of adventures, exploring faraway places and solving mysteries.

For many years she was almost alone in producing British child adventure books, comparable to the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys stories beloved by young readers across the Atlantic, though even more prominent.

To many, she created countless classics — although allegations that her past work was problematic have been around for decades.

Blyton’s name swiftly became one of Britain’s top Twitter trends on Thursday as many weighed in on the decision to label her work as offensive. To some it was an important issue worth exploring, to others it was the latest installment of a cancel culture series which was becoming tiresome.

With the advent of the Black Lives Matter movement, there has been an increased impetus to reexamine problematic aspects of Britain’s culture and history, which has in turn provoked a backlash that claims radical liberals are seeking to “cancel” emblematic aspects of the nation.

Following the string of protests across the country last summer, British Heritage announced it would be reviewing its collection of almost 1,000 blue plaques, as local governments and officials began working to address controversial statues and street names.

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On social media, many swooped to defend the author, arguing her work was a product of the time it was created, noting that society has changed greatly since it was written.

Blyton’s official website says her books are “at the heart of every childhood,” a sentiment many fans echoed as they took to social media to defend those trying to devalue her work.

“I refuse to accept any criticism of Enid Blyton. I refuse to cancel how my childhood was shaped, with thrilling adventures, mysteries,” wrote author Aseem Chhabra, adding, “I cannot forget the way these books fired my imagination, gave me so much joy.”

Britain’s tabloids also picked up on the widespread controversy.

“Now Enid Blyton is canceled,” roared the conservative Daily Mail on Thursday, alongside various images of Blyton’s most recognized characters, including Noddy, the little wooden toy known for his red and yellow car.

“NODDY GOES TO WOKETOWN,” the publication wrote.

In a statement shared to Twitter on Thursday, English Heritage said it had “no plans whatsoever to remove” any plaques and noted the author’s books remain “loved by many.”

In 2019, plans for the author to be honored with a commemorative coin by the Royal Mint were blocked due to concerns that the author was homophobic, sexist and racist.

At the time, British media reported that those behind the plans had expressed concern there would be backlash over the 50 pence coin which was being designed to commemorate 50 years since her death.

Read more:

Oxford students remove photo of Queen Elizabeth II, sparking latest battle in Britain’s culture wars

The strange journey of ‘cancel,’ from a Black-culture punchline to a White-grievance watchword

Perspective: Breaking up with your favorite racist childhood classic books