Five years ago, we published the first title in our Felt Flaps series, Where’s Mr Lion? Today, it is one of our bestselling series in the Nosy Crow collection. We’re beyond proud at how far the series has come in so relatively short time – selling over 5 million copies worldwide, and has become one of our most recognisable and enduring series and a family favourite among babies, toddlers, parents, and carers alike.
Where’s Mr Lion? went on to win the Sainsbury’s Children’s Book of the Year Award in 2017, and has since released in a new, compact buggy book format – perfect for babies on the go!
We’ve published an astounding 33 titles in the series so far, our most recent being the delightfully festive Where’s Mr Snowman?
Where did it all start?
The Felt series is the brainchild of Camilla Reid, former Editorial Director of the Pre-School and Novelty list at Nosy Crow. Camilla came up with the felt novelty concept after Zoë Gregory – then Deputy Art Director, and now Art Director for Pre-school titles – suggested that they collaborate with Ingela P Arrhenius.
“The felt flaps idea that I developed was based on Ingela’s gorgeous animals, but the novelty required that the animals were naturalistic and pictured in their natural environment. However, what I immediately realised is that if you stand animals on all fours and they don’t have fun names or trousers, it can all get a bit factual and dull, and that is definitely not what I want in a book! Because for me, books need to have warmth and wit, so children can identify with the characters.” – Camilla Reid
We met with Camilla and Ingela in celebration of these incredible milestones, and to discuss the creative process behind the series in more detail. Read on below for this inspirational origin story.
Can you tell us more about the inspiration for the name of the series?
Camilla: Everything I do as a writer is inspired by my experience of reading to my own children. As a parent of a baby, I wanted books to identify the animals so my daughter could start to learn and speak the words. But, as a writer, I felt it was a bit dull to just say, “Where’s the lion? Here it is!” Adding a Mr/Mrs prefix gave the animals both character and gender, which I felt was important as I found myself calling all animals “he”. I also wanted to avoid giving them cheesy names like ‘Larry Lion’, which always slightly grates for me.
How does it feel to have reached five years and over 5 million copies worldwide?
Ingela P Arrhenius: Unreal and fantastic! When we started I could never imagine this to happen and that we have done SO many titles.
Camilla: It feels great! I have to admit that as soon as we finished the first book, Where’s Mr Lion?, I knew it was good. I knew we had made something that really worked for its audience and that looked gorgeous, so I was pretty confident that the series would do well. You never quite know how it will perform, though, so it’s really pleasing that this has done as well as I’d hoped.
What did you enjoy the most when working on the series?
Ingela: First of all, to work together with Zoe and Camilla on these has been wonderful. So happy to have gotten to know them! I also enjoy working on them because it´s such a fun challenge to find the perfect balance between childish and edgy. You shall always have the child in mind so that they understand and enjoy the picture but it´s interesting to see how graphic and clean you can go, if you understand what I mean.
Camilla: It’s always about the collabs! Though it was my concept and I planned the text and layouts, many people contributed to shaping the first books. Zoe Gregory (now Deputy Head of Design) proposed Ingela P Arrhenius as an illustrator, Catherine Stokes (Nosy Crow Head of Sales and Marketing) suggested the mirror ending, Imogen Blundell (then Head of Production) found a printer who could supply good quality felt at the right price, and Ingela, of course, drew the most wonderful pictures! I very much enjoy the experience of working with smart, passionate people, who all want the book to be the best it can be.
What has surprised you the most about the series?
Camilla: I’m surprised, and delighted, that it has sold into so many different markets. These books seem to work for a huge range of consumers, from those who shop at British supermarkets, to those in the US, France, even the Far East. That’s quite unusual.
Ingela: That it has sold like this and that every book is still fun to do after all these titles!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to write for children for children?
Camilla: Read to them first – a lot! Observe how they engage with books, and try to understand what they find exciting about them.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to illustrate for children?
Camilla: The same applies – you can learn so much by seeing a book through a chid’s eyes. For example, as a young editor, I never liked big, goggly eyes on characters as I felt they were too cartoony. However, once I had babies myself, I realised that they really connect with goggly eyes, so I changed my taste completely!
Ingela: Never forget the children´s perspective. And visit an antiquarian bookstore, children´s book section, SO much inspiration!
Explore all 33 titles in the series so far here.