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:
Today’s a big day for all of us at Nosy Crow: our The Three Little Pigs app app is the Number 1 New and Noteworthy app in the UK App Store. It’s on the homepage! This is a real recognition of the app’s quality and innovation. The Three Little Pigs is Nosy Crow’s first app, and it has already been reviewed amazingly well, as you’ll see from the list of reviews in the Media Mentions section of our Media Kit page.
The Three Little Pigs has
appeared on the home pages of 12 continental European countries already it’s great to see it here in the UK App Store. Not only is the UK a really important market for our apps, but it is also “our” store: the one we buy our apps in ourselves.
The app also tops the “What’s Hot” list in book apps on the UK store:
We recently sat down with actress Freya Wilson, 11, to discuss her role in creating The Three Little Pigs app. Freya also plays the part of Princess Elizabeth in the Oscar-nominated movie The King’s Speech. And, quite the professional, she answered the phone only once during our interview: a call to discuss a homework assignment.
Which character or voices do you perform in the Three Little Pigs app?
I narrated the story and I did the bit parts of Mr. Pig and the Spider.
What was it like in the recording studio? Did you have to do multiple takes to get it just right, or was it pretty easy?
It was hard work! We spent several days in the studio over the course of a few months. We started the day warming up our voices by doing tongue-twisters like “Popocatapetl, copper-plated kettle” to get going. Each of us went individually into the recording room, which has a sound-proof glass wall. When we were in there we could hear the comments of Ali (Muirden, voice audio expert) and Deb through earphones. We did lots of takes because we had to try different ways of saying the lines – sometimes whiny, sometimes scared, sometimes less expressive. We had to stay in character, which was hard because we’re not used to being fairy tale characters! We had to remember to speak the parts as though we were reading the story to a child who was younger than us.
What is it like to hear your voice coming out of the mouth of the characters when you use the app?
I thought it would be embarrassing to hear my voice coming out of a spider and a pig, but it’s not! I don’t think it sounds very much like me. I think I sound younger. You know, I think the Three Little Pigs is an incredibly interactive app – there’s lots for children to do – and it’s been really cool to see it come together from the script to the finished thing.
Do you have any memories of reading The Three Little Pigs or other fairy tales when you were little?
Mum used to read me fairy tales and also other books. I remember reading The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig which is a parody of the real The Three Little Pigs story. I remember reading the Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson a lot.
You recently played the part of Princess Elizabeth in the film The King’s Speech. How did your experience recording the app compare to working on a film?
Well, when I was being filmed in The King’s Speech I spent quite a lot of time in hair and make-up and we had very good food at lunchtime. For The Three Little Pigs I just wore jeans and we only got sandwiches. But in other ways it was similar: for both we had to spend a long time waiting for takes and needed to be very thorough and say the lines again and again in a different ways. In both, we were very serious, but also silly.
What’s next for you? More movies? Voice-overs?
I’m going to be the narrator and maybe other parts in the next Nosy Crow fairy tale app which is Cinderella. I really want to be an ugly sister, though. I have recently filmed a short film called Elevator Operator where I get to play the part of a girl with a hearing-aid who can’t speak.
If you could write a children’s book or app, what would it be about?
I would write something about an imaginary land or I’d write historical fiction. I do a lot of writing now, mainly poetry and play scripts.
What do you do in your free time?
I like to read and play the guitar and talk to my friends. No sport – never, never!
How did you get into acting?
A casting agent came to an after-school drama club I went to. I was sent to an audition for an HBO series called Game of Thrones, and I think I got quite far. Then my parents decided it wasn’t really right for me to act in something I wouldn’t be allowed to watch because some bits aren’t suitable for children. But this led to my getting an agent.
How did you get the part in the King’s Speech?
My agent put me forward for an audition, I think. I listened to clips of speeches made by Princess Elizabeth beforehand. I was called back three times and finally got the part.
What is it like to see the King’s Speech nominated for so many awards?
Astonishing and exhilarating! It wasn’t what I’d expected. But they’re awards for people like the director and for Colin Firth mainly, not for people with little parts.
Do you want to continue acting?
Definitely! I love transforming into another character. But I also really enjoy writing and would like to write professionally.