Creating Pip and Posy
Published on: 04 November 2014 Author: Camilla Reid
At the point that we were starting Nosy Crow, so back in 2010, Axel Scheffler and I both had toddlers – two energetic, demanding, charming girls, a few weeks apart in age.
In the months prior to our launch, I had noticed that though my daughter enjoyed books hugely – she loved my reading board books to her and was always keen to engage with every aspect of a book – it was clear to me that, moving on to picture books, there was a limit to her understanding of the stories: she could only keep up with the most basic of narratives, and books like The Gruffalo or Emily Brown, so those with relatively intricate plotlines which might work for a four year-old, were just too complex for her.
As a result, we had a handful of favourite titles – things like Mr Magnolia, Hairy Maclary and Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball – that we read again and again because they managed to fit our criteria of being interesting, original and yet straightforward in terms of plot. Also, if I'm being honest, they were books that I enjoyed reading too – they gave me joy to read to her.
With these observations in mind, I had spent some time playing with ideas for a series of new toddler stories. I felt that what we needed were simple stories, with incident: exciting, scary, even bad things needed to happen, followed by resolution, of course. Naturally, the bad things were never going to be too awful but if you're two, losing a toy, dropping an ice cream or scraping your knee are disastrous events! As well as incident, the stories needed a charming character or characters, familiar locations and scenarios that a toddler could relate to – in other words it need to be fairly domestic in their setting.
I was keen too, that whatever we did, it had enough charm, and was of enough quality that it appealed to parents as well – there is nothing worse than having to read the same awful book endlessly!
Somewhere around this time, I met up with Axel and we realised that we were both having very similar experiences reading to our toddlers. We recognised that there were all sorts of challenging, uncharted waters that we were both having to navigate with our girls – things from potty-training, to learning to share and be kind. And, like me, Axel could see that there was a gap in the market for stories that dealt with this very particular phase of a child's life.
The result of those conversations was a handful of rough plotlines – and then we started to work on character. We decided that we wanted both a boy and girl character, because it allowed the stories to have an interesting dynamic, and also because it felt important that neither gender should be excluded. And though Axel draws most animals brilliantly, he is particularly good at rodents, so after ruling out a squirrel because of tail/trouser issues, we landed on a mouse and a rabbit. It wasn't long before Pip and Posy came to life.
Happily, the series has gone down fantastically with both parents and toddlers, I think because it appeals to them on different levels. The children adore the stories because they have drama and emotional journeys with which they identify, and the parents tell us that they enjoy the fact that each story has a lesson, albeit a very gentle one. And everyone loves the humour of Axel's illustrations, which work in subtle counterpoint to the very straight text.
The good news is that, because toddler life is so similar the world over, the series has sold brilliantly internationally: it has been translated into 11 languages and clocked up over half a million copies sold. The Bedtime Frog was read by Anne-Marie Duff on CBeebies Bedtime Stories back in September, while our Pip and Posy costumes travel round the country to events, appearing with Axel and on their own, but always greeted with huge enthusiasm by their adoring public, who ALL want a hug!