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Articles tagged with: birdie black

Nosy Crow publishes The Snowman's Journey: an "instant" book of the 2012 John Lewis Christmas advert

Posted by Kate on Nov 27, 2012

We’ve teamed up with John Lewis to create an exclusive picture book for them called The Snowman’s Journey. It’s based on their new Christmas advert, The Journey, which they released on 9 November 2012 and which has had over 2 million YouTube views. Books will be on sale on 1 December 2012.

John Lewis’s Christmas advert, The Journey

The book is a hardback picture book, telling the story of the snowman’s journey to get the perfect present for his snowgirl. It’s written in rhyme by Birdie Black (which is the pseudonym I used for another Christmas story we publish, Just Right for Christmas), and illustrated with stills from the advert.

The book will also include a Stories Aloud QR code on the front endpaper. You can scan the code to hear a digital audio reading by Freya Wilson (who played Princess Elizabeth in The King’s Speech) enhanced with sound effects and music by BAFTA-winning composer, Robin Beanland.

So how did we get a full-colour book from idea to shop in three weeks?

Well, here’s the story.

The advert, called The Journey, was released shortly after 9.00 am on Friday 9 November. There was a flurry of comment on Twitter which we picked up within an hour or so, and I remember we all watched the ad in the office together, and talked about its emotional power. But it was a normal, busy day. I was off to the ASCEL conference of school librarians in Leicestershire that afternoon and thought no more about it.

But the next morning, I just… felt like looking at the advert again, so I switched on my computer. There were already 400,000 YouTube views recorded, and it was on this second viewing that the idea for the book dawned. It was such a simple story of an adventurous and dangerous journey with an emotional core that was clearly resonating with hundreds of thousands of people. While I’d been enormously impressed with other John Lewis adverts, this one really felt book-like and child-like and the snowman protagonist felt like a picture book character. I thought that the idea of a perfectly chosen but relatively modest gift was one that all of us who are being careful with our budgets this Christmas would respond to.

By 10.00 am, I’d written the first few verses and discussed it with Adrian, Camilla, Tom and Stephanie. It was Louise’s first weekend, so I let her off the hook, but she quickly became involved in the week that followed. The idea was that we’d assemble a small team in the office on Sunday to create a dummy that we could get in front of John Lewis within a couple of days. This was a completely speculative thing, of course: we had no idea who had rights and we had no idea if John Lewis would be interested in the project at all, or would be interested in acting as quickly as we needed them to act.

Our team working on the book

I was speaking at an IBBY conference on Saturday, but, still, the unedited text was complete by 10.00 am on Sunday 11 November, when Stephanie, Tom and I met in the Nosy Crow office. Tom provided a series of low-resolution screen-grabs from the YouTube advert and Stephanie started weaving the text and the images together into a much more sophisticated and “picture-booky” design than I’d envisaged. She decided, for example, that she wanted to use design on the wrapping paper from the snowman’s present as the endpapers, so Adrian went off to John Lewis in Oxford Street to get it. Tom started work on adding this book to our programme of Stories Aloud titles, and we did a very basic, lo-tech recording with Freya at 6.00 pm. Camilla, who’d been away for the weekend with her family, came in to dummy up the book… which was when we discovered we’d run out of toner, so we had to do the final print-outs with the help of an all-night printer in Mayfair. But by midnight on Sunday 11 November, we had a dummy book.

The wrapping paper from John Lewis

I went with Bounce’s Catherine Stokes to see Baker and Taylor in Bicester on the morning of Monday 12 November. They loved it, and by Wednesday 14 November, we were in front of John Lewis, who signed off the project on the afternoon of Friday 16 November and provided us with higher-resolution images.

One of the Snowman models (and me) at John Lewis

Stephanie, Louise and I worked to prepare print-ready files over the weekend of 17 and 18 November.

Louise giving the book a last edit

The book was on press in Italy on Tuesday 19 November. We received advance copies today. Bulk stock will be delivered to Baker and Taylor at 8.00am on Thursday 29 November, and books will be on sale at £9.99 in John Lewis and Waitrose stores on Saturday 1 December.

The Snowman display in the window of Peter Jones

Craig Inglis, Marketing Director at John Lewis, said, “I was thrilled to find out that Nosy Crow liked our Christmas advert enough to publish a book based on its story. Our snowman seems to have captured the imagination of a wide audience, so it’s great that children can now enjoy his epic journey in such a magical book.”

You can read our full press release here, and take a look inside below:

What are your "mood-boosting" books... and is a "mood-boosting" book the same as a comfort read?

Posted by Kate on Feb 09, 2012

Today (well, it was today when I started writing this) Waterstones released its shortlist of Waterstones Children’s Book Prize books, which The Guardian said was dominated by gritty teen reads (Don’t worry for us that there are no Nosy Crow books on the list, by the way: we didn’t submit anything for the prize because we felt that nothing we’d published in 2011 quite met the criteria). It was a tough but impressive line-up of teenage books, but even several of the picture books – Good Little Wolf by Nadia Shireen and I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen – were books with (carnivorous) bite and wit. What I do think, for what it’s worth, is that the Waterstones shortlists are particularly strong on children’s books that adults enjoy, whether gritty or whimsical or witty. But that’s another post…

Anyway, today was also the day that The Reading Agency produced a list of “mood-boosting” books.

So I asked around the office to get people to tell me what their “mood-boosting” books were. What’s interesting is how often these aren’t “happy-clappy” books: there are references to grief, tears and emotional roller-coasters as well as to escapism in people’s explanation of why they chose these books. Perhaps they’re more accurately described as “comfort reads”. That’s not what I asked for but it is, I think, what I got, and it says something about the range of ways that readers can extract emotional satisfaction from a reading experience that so many of the books people mentioned, though they had happy endings, were often far from monochromatic in their emotional palette. That relieved and complete sense of “ahhhh” at the happy resolution of what might have been a sad or difficult book is enough to make a book a comfort read and even, perhaps, a “mood-boosting” book.

Dom, who responded in detail and with real enthusiasm, said, “I have a serious Agatha Christie addiction. I have to re-read one a month, or I get twitchy. I find the blend of ‘gung-ho’ + naivety + well-mannered acceptance of dangerous situations of her lesser known heroes like the Beresfords, or Anne in The Man In The Brown Suit to be the perfect tonic to our fear-filled lives: we’re ALWAYS being told what will kill us: sugar, salt, wine, deep snow, white bread, etc. And the ‘deadly’ things are ALWAYS fun!

“Anything by Eva Ibbotson lifts my soul. There’s a line in The Secret Countess that pricks my eyes with tears whenever I read it.

“And Mrs ‘Arris Goes To Paris by Paul Gallico! A BEAUTIFUL book all about the kindness of strangers.

“Oh, and Sita Brahmachari’s Artichoke Hearts weaves together perfectly the joy of life and living with the peculiar blend of gratitude/regret of grief…while being intensely uplifting all the while.”

Ed said, “Comic capers from Jasper Fforde, Carl Hiaasen (he’s done a few stories for younger readers too, like Flush and Hoot) and Janet Evanovich are always a lot of fun too!” and that his wife “always heads for a Georgette Heyer: off you go to another time and place, away from all your worries and there’s always a happy ending.”

Leen said, “Jane Eyre is a massive comfort read! As is Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. And The Neverending Story. Oh, and any Georgette Heyer book.”

Kirsty, reasonably enough, asked, “Is it comfort reads for kids or adults?” She said that her children always go back to Enid Blyton and A Squash and a Squeeze (illustrated by Axel Scheffler) but she also listed Captain Underpants and Little Women (not sure if they were for her or for the children, and she’s not around to ask right now, so you’ll have to guess).

Steph, very definitely and with no hemming and hawing over alternatives, nominated a book I didn’t know at all: Someday. She said, “It takes you on an emotional roller-coaster and reaffirms everything good about parenting and the circle of life.”

Joanne, who’s doing freelance marketing for us and whose biography I really must get up on the website, said, “Jez Alborough’s Hug! was the first thing that popped into my head.”

Mine – and I did find it hard to choose – are probably I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith and The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, and Emma is a pretty cheering kind of a read too. When I was a child, I read and read and reread Enid Blyton, particularly the Malory Towers books. I did set out to make Just Right a particularly feel-good text, and I think it achieved that, judging by the reviews.

My older child nominated I Capture the Castle and Anne of Green Gables. My younger child said, “Any Jeeves book and, when I was younger, Malory Towers and Miss Happiness and Miss Flower.”

What are YOUR mood-boosting books? Are they the same as your comfort reads?

While we’d love to hear about any books, we’re especially interested in children’s book – ones you read now, ones you read as a child and/or ones you share with children.

Please tell us on Twitter or (even better, because it lasts longer) by commenting below.