Thursday, 4 October 2018


Alphabet Street, my new novelty book with illustrator Ingela P Arrhenius, is published in the UK today by Nosy Crow!

The book features a street of shops with alphabetised names (Alfie’s Bakery, Coffee & Doughnuts, etc.). 

Flaps on each shop open to reveal rhyming couplets of alphabetised animals engaged in alphabetised activities.

It can be read as a conventional book or opened out to show all 13 shops as a wallchart or free-standing play scene.

The book had a long journey to publication – I came up with the idea almost two decades ago and my agent Caroline Walsh and I had been pitching it to UK publishers since 1999. The reason most publishers gave for turning the book down was that, “alphabet books can’t be translated” – so they’d be unable to split the book’s high production costs with foreign co-publishers.

A concept drawing sent to publishers, showing how the book could be opened out into a wall-chart or play scene.

Nevertheless, I felt that the book was sufficiently appealing and original to justify dusting it off and re-submitting it to publishers every few years. And this perseverance paid off when the book was finally accepted by Nosy Crow.

Ironically – after years of being rejected as untranslatable – the book is also being published in eight different foreign language editions.

The first edition has been published in nine different languages.

A key part of the book’s appeal to the overseas market is the beautiful artwork of Swedish illustrator Ingela P Arrhenius whose bright, cheerful style is very popular with European readers. And Nosy Crow cleverly avoided the “alphabet books can’t be translated” issue by pitching the book to foreign co-publishers in a non-alphabetic, non-rhyming version with the alternative title “Busy Busy Street”.

A section of Ingela's park panorama from the reverse side of the book.

Which just goes to show that, “if at first you don’t succeed” in finding a publisher, it can be worth persevering, and that, if an alphabet book has sufficient appeal beyond the alphabet element, it CAN be translated!

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