Though not quite as speedy as the three-weeks-from-idea-to-books-in-the-shops creation of our book based on the 2012 John Lewis Christmas ad, Baby, I Love You, the book we have just made for UNICEF, which was launched this month, had a pretty fast turn-around too.
Baby, I Love You is published by UNICEF and will be given to every newborn baby in Scotland by health visitors at their first home visit, spreading the UNICEF message, “You can’t spoil your baby with love”, and introducing families to the idea of sharing books with babies at the earliest possible stage in a baby’s life.
From my earliest involvement with Booktrust’s Bookstart programme, I’ve pursued opportunities to support the introduction of reading to babies whenever I possibly can, and we leapt at this project when we found out about it in discussion with UNICEF in December 2013, despite the fact that we knew that we had just six months to create, print (in China), ship and deliver tens of thousands of copies of a board book.
Though conversations started in the run-up to Christmas 2013, things only really got going in January, by which time Camilla had come up with a first draft of the text, and, crucially, the idea that the words should fit the tune we know as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, which is familiar to so many people throughout the world.
After a discussion about possible artwork styles – we considered photography too – we were really delighted to be able to sign up multi-award-winning Helen Stephens in February. She had to work to a tight brief in a short period to create something that combined what we thought would make the best book with the messages that UNICEF wanted the book to communicate and with real humanity and warmth. We think she rose to the challenge.
The final cover
To reinforce the idea that this could be either read aloud or sung to a baby – the parents among us at Nosy Crow remembered making up, or adapting, lots of rhymes and songs when we were rocking our own babies – we decided we could use our Stories Aloud audio innovation to deliver a sung and instrumental version of the Twinkle Twinkle Little Star melody.
I’m a Scot myself, and I was really keen that we should have a Scottish voice singing. After asking around, one of my more musical family members suggested that we consider Mairi Campbell. She agreed that she would sing, and, better still – and brilliantly appropriate given that parent-child relationships are what the book is all about – her teenage daughter, Ada Francis, would accompany her on the clàrsach. We recorded the music on a sunny March day in a studio in the countryside just outside Edinburgh.
Ada Francis and Mairi Campbell
Ewan McGregor, a UNICEF Ambassador, also recorded a read-aloud audio version (you can hear this in the video at the top of this post).
The book was printed and – nice touch this – each copy was individually wrapped in China and delivered to Scotland earlier this month.
We are really proud and happy to have been part of this project. Helen Fraser, when she was running Penguin, is supposed to have said that, for a book to be taken on by Penguin, it should make them proud, it should make them happy, or it should make them rich. As Meat Loaf said, two out of three ain’t bad.