Thursday, 28 July 2016

Prince Ribbit • New Paperback & Hardback Picture Book


I have a new picture book coming out today in both hardback and paperback!

Prince Ribbit is illustrated by Poly Bernatene and published by Macmillan Children's Books. It's a comical twist on the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale The Frog Prince.

When a cunning frog claims to be a bewitched prince, fairy-tale-loving princesses
Arabella and Lucinda take him into their home and treat him like royalty.
But fact-loving Princess Martha isn’t so sure;
her non-fiction books tell a different story.

Although Prince Ribbit is the fourth book that illustrator Poly Bernatene and I have created together, it’s effectively a follow-up to the second, The Princess and the Pig. While it’s not a sequel, both books are set in a fairytale world of princes and princesses and both books feature characters who are reading books of fairy tales.

In this new story a cunning frog inveigles his way into a royal household by pretending to be an enchanted prince. Romantically obsessed Princesses Lucinda and Arabella are only too happy to believe Prince Ribbit's story, but their younger sister Princess Martha is more sceptical.

Martha begins the story as an avid non-fiction reader but,
by the end, she's a fan of fiction as well.
Although fiction versus non-fiction is now a prominent theme of the story, there were no non-fiction books in the first few drafts. The only book that was referenced was Lucinda and Arabella's favourite fairy tale The Frog Prince, which provides Prince Ribbit with the inspiration for his cunning plan. In these earlier drafts, Martha succeeded in foiling Ribbit using nothing but her own reasoning and the story ended at an earlier point.

While I was fairly happy with this early version, Emily Ford, my editor at Macmillan, felt that the ending could be stronger and that the whole story was not as satisfying as the other ones I’d written for Poly to illustrate – and she was right! However it took me a while to find a way to achieve this and come up with a new draft that fitted the bill.

In the story, reading fiction helps Martha to find a solution to her problem; reading non-fiction helped me to find a solution to mine. At that time I was reading a lot of "popular science" books. It may surprise you to learn that libel laws do not apply to science and authors can misrepresent a scientist’s work with impunity. There are good reasons for this exemption, but it means that the label of “non-fiction” should not always be taken literally when it comes to scientific literature, particularly popular science books which can sometimes misrepresent evidence in order to appeal to a wider market. After digging a little deeper into the evidence, I discovered that some of the books I was reading at that time were doing exactly that and I often had to remind myself that, “Just because it’s in a book, it doesn’t mean it’s true!”. This phrase inspired the fiction versus non-fiction theme in the later drafts of Prince Ribbit and became a refrain within the story.

It was felt that this first version of the diagram of a frog's life cycle
 provided a little ‘too much information’ for younger readers so
the copulation stage was omitted from the final illustration.
While I loved the idea of playing off fiction against non-fiction, I didn’t want to show one type of book winning over the other – they’re both of equal value — so in the end Martha learns to appreciate both before foiling Prince Ribbit’s plan.

As always Poly has done a terrific job of illustrating the book, creating a cast of engaging characters in beautifully rendered settings. I particularly like the way that the illustrations in the books the characters are reading are drawn in a different style to the rest of the illustrations. Poly’s precisely detailed diagram of the life cycle of a frog would not look out of place in a real reference book, although Macmillan felt that his first version provided a little ‘too much information’ for younger readers (see image opposite).

When I first saw Poly’s roughs for the book I wasn’t keen on the car spread (shown below) and suggested that it would be better if the illustration show the royal tailors and jewellers attending Ribbit inside the palace. However Poly was reluctant to change it and — having now seen the finished illustration — I’m glad that he got his way, as it’s now my favourite spread in the book. I love the blue-yellow colour palette that Poly has used for this illustration, with the golden glow of the tailor’s shop spilling out into the half-light of the crowded street.


Here's a trailer I made for the book.




You can download and print out activity sheets for the book by clicking on their images below.


Word Search

Board Game


Buy this book at amazon UKBuy at amazon USBuy at amazon US

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