A piece of literature is abridged in content and length so that it is suitable for kids. Interestingly, this is often not objectionable material such as violence, but more things like excess description, sappy romance, or long monologues, as these things are considered less likely to be palatable to a child's attention span. Usually the essential part of the story structure is still maintained. Note that this doesn't necessarily exonerate them - Ray Bradbury ranted extensively in the coda of Fahrenheit 451 about how abridging great works of literature was just as bad as burning them.
When done in book form this will commonly feature illustrations added in, though this most definitely does not make them Comic Books. This is also, oddly enough, done to books that were already aimed at younger readers in the first place, such as Alice in Wonderland.
The "abridged" nature can also vary widely depending on whether the tone or the length itself is what's being trimmed. The Reader's Digest Condensed Version of The Open Window, for example, only cut the last line. You can probably guess why.
- Charles Schulz poked fun at this trope in an early '60s Peanuts comic strip:
Violet: What are you reading?
Charlie Brown: This is an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.
Violet: An adaptation?
Charlie Brown: Yes, it's been adapted for children... It's not unlike drinking diluted root beer!
- Great Illustrated Classics are a good example of long literature pared down for younger readers in a way that preserves the integrity of the story while bringing the denser works like "Moby Dick" and "Great Expectations" down to the level of younger readers by simplifying the language.
- There was a junior edition of Jurassic Park when the film came out, but it was based on the film rather than the original novel.
- Gulliver's Travels has appeared in children's abridgements, generally consisting only of the Lilliput and Brobdingnag sections, as tiny and gigantic people were thought to be easier for kids to relate to than scientific frauds, Blessed with Suck immortals, historical satire and out-and-out misanthropy. The Lilliputian-fire extinguishing scene is always naturally euphemized.
- The Thousand And One Nights has also seen a number of children's editions, leaving out the erotic and scatalogical tales. As well as the fact that the entire book is based on a woman's spinning wild "cliffhanger" tales, in order to avoid being killed by her paranoid-jealous husband (to prevent her from cheating on him), by keeping him in suspense to hear the ending!
- The old Classics Illustrated comic books.
- This is the in-story reason Mr. Goldman abridged The Princess Bride. He wanted his kids to enjoy it, and there was far too much boring stuff. However, he did leave in all the torture and death (though he does warn us about what's coming at one point, telling us that this isn't Curious George Uses the Potty). Mr. Goldman's (in-story) father's Good Parts abridgment fits the trope more accurately. He tried to leave out the scary parts until he was called on it.
- Moby Books Illustrated Classic Editions abridged classic novels to a couple of hundred pages — small pages, large print, and one page in each double-page spread had an illustration instead of text. The Moby Books edition of The Count of Monte Cristo is an interesting case study in what's considered appropriate for young readers: most of the book is devoted to the early section with Edmond being wrongfully imprisoned, befriending and learning from a fellow prisoner, and escaping, and then the whole rest of the book is done away with in a few pages. The Count of Monte Cristo himself is hardly in it.
- Les Misérables is called (affectionately?) by its readers "the Brick", resulting in multiple attempts to shorten it—however, this is not an easy text to abridge. Cut versions always leave the revolution subplot in the dust. Fantine's story is castrated, and all character development not centered on Valjean and Javert is pretty much obliterated. Hugo's tableau of France invariably turns into a good and evil story (Valjean and Javert) with a romance subplot (Marius and Cosette) thrown in.
- The first novel in the Modesty Blaise series was abridged for young readers in the 1970s, with most of the violent sequences (including one where the two heroes cold-bloodedly murder a pair of mooks) left intact.
- In the 1980s there was a rather dubious trend of adapting popular action movies for "read along" book-and-record sets. Among those produced: adaptations of several James Bond films and even one based upon one of the films in the Rambo franchise!
- Maurice Maeterlinck's Life of the Bee had an abridged version published in 1919, titled The Children's Life of the Bee. It excises most of the author's philosophical musings, leaving behind just an educational text on bees.
- According to a book about the creation and continual reinvention of A Christmas Carol, the most abridged version of the book is printed on four sheets of chewable cardboard and reads, in its entirety, "Once there was a nasty man named Scrooge. He met three ghosts. And he became nice."
- The show and the Adventures of Wishbone books are the more familiar version, with modern-day scenes interspersed with the abridged literature with one of the characters being played by a dog. Wishbone Classics was just the abridged novel with occasional commentary from Wishbone from the sides; some of that was also summaries of skipped scenes.
- The Bible often gets this treatment, with many different editions of brightly illustrated "Favorite Bible Stories for Children." Such books tend to leave out the complicated theological passages, the arcane details of the Laws of Moses, and the Family-Unfriendly Violence and sex such as can be found (for instance) in the Book of Judges. Interestingly they do usually retain a few violent episodes, such as Daniel in the Lions' Den, David killing Goliath, and of course the Crucifixion of Jesus.
- Likewise, Classical Mythology has a tendency to have a lot of these. For example, a lot of the male lovers of heroes and gods (like Ganymede and Patroclus), kidnapping/rape of children (ever wonder why Oedipus's father had such a terrible fate?), and certain horrifying fates (Oedipus) are just plain omitted.
- In Germany, Gustav Schwab (probable first-contact for kids and mythology) is guilty as hades of this trope. Not because of omission of ticklish material but rather because of turning the Grey and Gray Morality prevalent in all mythology into a fairytale Black and White Morality. Hooboy, did he smear Karna and whitewash Cu Chulainn. If you "learnt" mythology with Schwab and reread the originals as an adult, you're in for some surprises.
- The "School Version" of Grease omits any swearing and references to cigarettes and alcohol. The songs Hopelessly Devoted To You and There Are Worse Things I Could Do are also cut.
- Parodied with Book-A-Minute.
- Shaun the Sheep: When shown on the Disney Channel in the United States, most episodes were heavily edited and ended up being of very variable length. Most of the edits concerned the realistically dropping-strewn field that the sheep inhabit as well as instances of Toilet Humour. Some such as the scene in "We Wish Ewe a Merry Xmas" where the farmer straightens the head on the snowman, which promptly falls off appear to be instances of Think of the Children!. Other, more inexplicable edits were made to fit the show to its allotted slot. In some episodes, the edits were so extensive as to completely break the plot, or reduce the length of the episode to a point where other measures were taken to lengthen the episode, for example by running the opening titles at a reduced speed. This was not a format conversion artifact, since it was present on some episodes but not others.