I was walking the dog in the dark this morning and he was sniffing along the bottom of a garden wall when he suddenly jumped up in the air. Whatever he’d come across was in shadow and I couldn’t see it, but he became very agitated and I had to hold him back. When I looked closer it was a hedgehog curled into a ball. It was the first time in ages I had seen one. We used to have one in our garden almost nightly and a few years ago I bought a proper little hedgehog nesting box and put it in a corner. But most of our neighbours have now torn up the hedges that used to border our garden and replaced them with wooden fences, and now we don’t seem to get any.
I once wrote a picture book text about a hedgehog who fell into a hole, and a series of other animals came along and tried to rescue him. It was accepted by a publisher, contracts were signed and I got an advance – then the publishers decided that the animals needed to be changed to ones which Americans would be familiar with. Now that touched a raw nerve with me. I get very depressed about the subtle, creeping Americanisation of the world. America is as fine and decent a country as any other – but not, apart from being wealthier, superior to many others in the way it would like to think, especially culturally.
So I refused to Americanise my text – and they didn’t publish! And I kept my money!
I’m glad I stuck to my guns, but if it happened now I would make changes. What I didn’t realise then and wasn’t explained to me was that publishers – especially picture book publishers – aim for, and almost need, overseas editions to make such books commercially viable. I’ve since had several other ideas rejected because they are, in effect, “too British”. That’s the sad but true state of affairs.
But I love hedgehogs!