Thank you so much for the outpouring of support and well wishes you have given in the comments from yesterday's post. You all are wonderful, and it's a blessing to have such passionate readers!
Some questions naturally arose in the comments, and I thought I'd tackle a few of them here. One important point is that HarperCollins doesn't think of the abridgements as dumbed-down. I do, and that I am strongly opposed to the dumbing-down of children's literature must be obvious from my decision to walk away from a series of books that has been my heart's work for the past decade. Although I came to the decision many months ago, the shock of it still takes my breath away sometimes. I love Martha and Charlotte, really love them. Like daughters. I have written certain scenes between Martha and Lew in my mind a hundred times. I'm sorry that I will not be sharing them with you, more sorry than I can express.
My decision to quit also had serious ramifications for my family. Had I continued with the series, we would still be living in Virginia; Scott would still be a work-at-home freelancer. So quitting was not a decision I made lightly; it had teeth.
And yet, if you read this blog then you know my stance on giving children the highest caliber of literature—not a slimmed-down version of what had been a carefully crafted novel. And so, when it became clear that my publishers were committed to their decision to abridge, I made what I believe to be the right decision—the only decision I could have made. Doing the right thing, I tell my children, is almost never the easy thing.
Certainly, this was a very hard thing to do.
But as I said, while I see the abridgement as dumbing-down, I must say in all fairness that I don't believe my publishers see it that way at all. They see this as an opportunity to bring the books to a younger audience, a way to keep the series in print. The decision was presented to me with excitement and enthusiasm; I really think they were surprised that I was dismayed by it.
I bear them no ill will; indeed, I shall be sorry not to be working with my wonderful HarperCollins editor anymore. She is a gem. I simply disagree, quite gravely, with this publishing decision. I do think children deserve the very best books we can give them. The books I wrote, the books that were carefully and lovingly edited by not one, but two top-notch editors (the great Alix Reid, who edited all eight of my novels, not to mention Newbery winner Ella Enchanted, has since left the publishing world for other pursuits), are, I truly believe, literature of high quality. And I don't think they are too hard, or too long, for young readers. I have heard from too many enthusiastic young readers to believe otherwise.
HarperCollins has made a business decision, and I disagree with it on principle, as an author, a reader, and a mother. I think chopping up the books is a mistake. But—and this is very important—publishers respond to trends in the marketplace. They make decisions based upon what sells. If you, as consumers (readers, parents, booklovers), want to influence publishing trends, you must do it (I am sorry to say) with your pocketbooks. The big publishing houses don't read our blogs; they don't know how we feel about literature versus twaddle. They only know what sells.
I see both sides of this coin, because I live on both sides. I'm a homeschooling mom with a modest household income, and frugality is a must. I'm also a writer whose livelihood depends on people spending money on books. Years ago, Scott and I made a conscious decision to strike a balance between these two competing identities: we resolved not to buy used if the book is still in print and the author is still alive. We buy new books in hardcover as often as possible, because that too sends a message to a publisher. And if we read a book at the library and truly love it, we try to buy a copy of it too.
(Now you know why I have cheap furniture and don't dress well. All the discretionary income goes to books.)
So. I'm deeply gratified that you are ordering copies of my unabridged novels while you can still get them. Deeply gratified—yesterday was a goosebumpy day as the comments and emails came pouring in. But if you really want to show your support for the principles on which I stand, go out and buy a new copy of The Penderwicks. In hardcover, if possible!