These are very simple rhyming touch-and-feel books that would, I think, be exactly right for a baby aged between 6 and 18 months. When we were looking for an illustrator (Marion Billet is French, and none of us had worked with her before), we were influenced by the look of Japanese packaging, and Camilla had a line up of various Japanese biscuits and sweets on her desk.
We’ve sold rights to the books to the US (they’re going to be published under the Nosy Crow imprint by Candlewick). And that was an interesting process: Noodle was originally eating (chopped up) sausages and strawberries (not together, of course: that would be revolting), but Candlewick thought that sausages would be viewed as being bad for young children, and said that US paediatricians discouraged parents from giving strawberries to babies and toddlers because they were allergenic. So we changed the sausages to pasta (you can see on the “sausages” version, which is a proof, the line that indicates where the card will be cut so that the green, bumpy fabric can be felt through the hole):
Noodle with his sausages
Noodle with pasta
And we changed the strawberries to raspberries.
This was expensive and time-consuming (I mean, we love Candlewick, so nothing’s too much trouble, but still…). However, the only way that illustrated books (and particularly touch-and-feel books) are financially viable to produce is if we can collect together a really big print-run, printing our own (UK and Australia/New Zealand) copies together with copies for as many other countries as we can sell rights to. So, if you’re creating illustrated books, you have to accommodate the taste (literally, in this instance) and the cultures of different countries.
There are people who argue that this “internationalisation” leads to bland books. I don’t think it does, and looking round the halls at Bologna, I am always struck by the variation and I am very sure that many really great books wouldn’t get published if you only had the UK market to rely on: the example that I always give is that of The Gruffalo, of which, I think, perhaps 1,500 hardback copies were printed for the UK/Australia/New Zealand, but a financially viable print run was made up of this quantity plus quantities in other languages.
We’ve also so far sold rights in these books in Dutch, Portuguese and Italian – to countries where, it seems, pasta and raspberries are absolutely fine for babies – so it all ended well for Noodle.